Oakland Press: We must put an end to sanctuary cities to prevent further tragedies

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Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

On July 1, Kate Steinle, a vibrant, 32-year-old California woman, was shot and killed while walking with her father along a San Francisco pier. Her confessed killer is an illegal alien and a repeat felon who has been deported five times.

According to Kate’s father, Jim Steinle, Kate’s last words to him after being shot on that pier were, “Help me, Dad.”

But Jim Steinle was unable to come to his daughter’s aid. She had been gunned down by a felon who should not have been anywhere near that pier, but should have been in federal custody instead.

Unfortunately — and tragically for Kate Steinle and her family — San Francisco is a sanctuary city. Sanctuary cities prevent local employees from notifying federal authorities of illegal aliens living in their communities.

So instead of heeding a request by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, San Francisco let Steinle’s alleged killer, Francisco Sanchez, remain on the streets.

It is a horrific story that didn’t have to end this way. Kate Steinle’s senseless murder could have been prevented if San Francisco officials had only respected the rule of law.

As a state senator, I can’t do anything about San Francisco’s designation as a sanctuary city.

But I will do everything I can to put an end to sanctuary city laws in Michigan so a similar tragedy doesn’t occur here.

I am strongly opposed to any Michigan cities violating the laws of America and providing safe havens for murderers, drug dealers and other criminals.

That is why on Wednesday, I introduced Senate Bill 445, which would prohibit local units of government in Michigan from enacting or enforcing sanctuary city laws and prohibit any state funding or other resources from going to sanctuary cities.

On Monday, I set up an online petition, www.signtostop.com, calling for the prohibition of sanctuary cities in the state. I am happy to report that we already have had thousands of Michiganders sign the petition calling for an end to sanctuary cities. I am encouraged by the response and I urge all Michiganders to sign.

While I am working to eliminate the threat of sanctuary cities in Michigan, I support efforts underway to welcome skilled legal immigrants to Michigan.

I am from a family of immigrants who came to America legally to pursue the American dream and live under our laws. Successful companies like Dow and Meijer were created by legal immigrants, and it is important to recognize that in just the past decade alone, more than 30 percent of high-tech businesses created in Michigan were created by immigrants.

We need to make sure that vital workers in the agriculture and tourism sectors come to our state legally. Programs encouraging foreign students to receive education and training from Michigan universities should continue, and we must do all we can to keep those individuals here in Michigan after they graduate.

In addition, I support the proposed expansion of certain employment-based visas for skilled legal immigrants and workers. There are five types of special visas that permit a non-citizen to be a legal guest and earn employment-based permanent residency.

Legal immigration is not the problem. The problem is a brazen disregard for the law, which allows illegal aliens and felons to run free. That must end in Michigan.

This op-ed first appeared in the Oakland Press. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.