Hill Republicans Pushing New Mandatory Minimums

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After months of debate over curbing mandatory minimum prison sentences, Republicans are now going in the opposite direction, The Hill reports. A new border security bill includes mandatory minimum sentences for immigrants who try to re-enter the U.S. after they’ve been deported and for people convicted of violent crimes against judges and police officers. The legislation is still being written by Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX). The legislation includes “Kate’s law,” named for Kathryn Steinle, a 32-year-old woman killed in 2015 by a felon who had been deported but returned to the U.S. The law creates a three-strike rule. Immigrants with prior aggravated felony convictions or two prior convictions for illegal re-entry would get a mandatory 5-year sentence.

The measure incorporates Cornyn’s Back the Blue Act, which creates a 30-year mandatory minimum sentence for killing a judge or federal law enforcement officer; a 10-year minimum for assault if the judge or law enforcement officer is seriously injured; a 20-year mandatory minimum if a deadly or dangerous weapon was used in the assault; and a 10-year minimum for fleeing after killing, attempting to kill or conspiring to kill a judge or law enforcement office. Previously, momentum for eliminating mandatory minimum laws gained steam with the backing of President Obama and conservatives like Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Charles and David Koch, the conservative GOP mega-donors. Cornyn, who supported last year’s reform bill, said his bill is not a statement about mandatory minimums generally. “I’m not opposed to all mandatory minimums,” he said. “For example, felons carrying guns, I like the five-year mandatory minimum because it acts as a deterrent and saves lives.”

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