A rift opens up between erstwhile Senate allies Ted Cruz and Mike Lee over the question of mandatory minimum jail sentences for foreigners who repeatedly try to enter the country illegally.
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 told POLITICO in a brief interview. “Every senator, Republican and Democrat, should support keeping this nation safe from criminal illegal aliens.”
But 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.
Lee has been a particular thorn for Republicans trying to write a bill in response to Steinle’s death, according to GOP sources. And on a committee with a narrow 11-9 majority, Republicans can’t afford to lose a single vote without picking up Democrats — an unlikely scenario on a proposal that’s imposing such tough penalties.