Ted Cruz and other Senate Republicans are pushing an aggressive immigration crackdown, proposing tougher penalties against foreigners who repeatedly try to enter the U.S. illegally. There's stiff resistance from fellow Republicans, Politico reports. The GOP rift, a drama that's playing out within the Senate Judiciary Committee, has opened up around the question of mandatory minimums, a sensitive topic that's central to the broader debate on Capitol Hill about reforming criminal justice. The divide could undermine Republican attempts to respond to the death of Kathryn Steinle last month on a San Francisco pier, allegedly by an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. The killing has ignited the issue of immigration in Congress and on the campaign trail.
On one side are Republicans such as Cruz, who's promoted his so-called Kate's Law on the 2016 stage, powerful Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who commands significant influence on immigration among hard-liners. They are all lobbying for legislation that would enact a mandatory minimum prison sentence of five years for immigrants who try to re-enter the country illegally after being deported. “It is legislation that ought to pass 100 to nothing,” Cruz said. On the opposing side are Senate Republicans such as Mike Lee of Utah, a close Cruz ally, and Jeff Flake of Arizona, who have both criticized mandatory minimums for certain crimes and are skittish about implementing such penalties for undocumented immigrants.