Kate’s Law Sinking?

When the obfuscation starts, the end is often near.

So, it appears to be with Kate’s Law, the paranoid piece of legislation that would have us spend 2 billion a year to lock up for 5 years all those who re-enter the country after being deported.

Yesterday, I posted The Mystifying Math of Kate’s Law, which really did little more than quote analysis from The Atlantic on the stupefying projected cost of implementing Kate’s Law.

That drew a sharp response from Paula Pennypacker, who contended that Kate’s Law only would apply to “aggravated felons.”

Well, not exactly, Paula.

Both H.R. 3011 (the bill that is titled “Kate’s Law”), introduced by Matt Salmon on July 9th, and S. 1762, introduced by Ted Cruz on July 14th, very clearly impose the five year minimum sentence on all re-entrants, not just aggravated felons.

At the time she began promoting Kate’s Law, Paula urged everyone to sign Bill O’Reilly’s petition, which reads:

Senator Mitch McConnell and Representative John Boehner
317 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-1702

July 07, 2015

Dear Senator Mitch McConnell and Representative John Boehner:

We, the undersigned, respectfully ask Congress to pass Kate’s Law whereby undocumented aliens who are deported and return to the United States would receive a mandatory five year sentence in a federal penitentiary upon conviction.

Note the date, July 7th.

And note the lack of any limitation to aggravated felons.

Since that time, neither the House nor the Senate bill has been amended.

However, both Paula and Bill O’Reilly now would limit the reach of the law to aggravated felons, but for different reasons. O’Reilly’s reason is strategic only. He wants it to be difficult for Democrats not to support it. Paula, to her credit, supports the limitation in principle. In response to my question about this, she elaborated:

Bob Lord One more thing. Extending the reach of Kate’s law would be insane. The cost to taxpayers would be as your blog suggests cost prohibitive.

Presumably, however, Trump still supports Kate’s Law as introduced. I could not find a statement from him changing his position, and Paula was not aware of one either.

So, where does this leave us?

First, both Paula and O’Reilly have been confusing everyone by referring to Kate’s law as if it has been amended in the manner they desire. But it hasn’t.

Second, Paula herself does not support Kate’s Law in its existing form and the form in which it was described in O’Reilly’s petition, which she herself promoted.

Third, Paula likely is not on the same page as Trump on Kate’s Law, yet Kate’s Law seemed to lie at the heart oh her decision to support Trump. Go figure.

Fourth, to the extent Paula based her departure from the Democratic Party on its  opposition to Kate’s Law, she was mistaken, because the version they oppose is one she also opposes.

Fifth, if Kate’s Law were passed with the limitation Paula and O’Reilly would incorporate, it would be a modest tweak to existing law. It would require a minimum 5 year sentence for aggravated felons who re-enter, but the existing statute already gives judges the discretion to impose sentences of up to 20 years. Instead of reaching the tens of thousands the law would reach in its current form, it would apply to a relative handful.

Sixth, the modification Paula demands makes complete sense, but it’s not consistent with the purported reason for the law — deterrence. If the existing sentence of up to 20 years is not an adequate deterrent, it’s hard to imagine how a 5-year sentence would be.

The bottom line: Kate’s Law proponents largely are in face-saving mode. They’ve realized what they originally envisioned was absurd policy, so they’re walking it back. Some form of the law may be passed, but it’s not going to be remotely similar to what O’Reilly and Trump had in mind. To her credit, Paula got off the crazy train pretty early on, but she confused a bunch of people by continuing to make references to Kate’s Law, when she actually had something far more limited in mind.

4 thoughts on “Kate’s Law Sinking?”

  1. A lot of people struggle with the difference between “what I want and/or believe a law will do” and “what the proposed law says”. This is true of all kinds of laws and is, frankly, a tendency found in people of all political stripes.

  2. How about Paula’s Law, which would impose 5 year sentence on anyone who leaves a political party and then tries to return. Sounds like something Rs and Ds could agree with.

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