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Less than a month after Kathryn Steinle was fatally shot by an undocumented immigrant in San Francisco, conservative senators went head-to-head with Obama administration officials in an emotional and heated hearing on immigration enforcement policy on Tuesday.
Jim Steinle, Kathryn’s father, joined other family members of victims to urge Congress to consider "Kate's Law," which would require illegal immigrants to serve five years in prison if they've been previously deported and return.
"The U.S. has suffered a self-inflicted wound in the murder of our daughter by the hand of a person who should have never been on the streets of this country," Steinle told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Between 2010 and 2014, 123 American citizens were killed by illegal immigrants facing deportation according to figures from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Steinle's death has touched off a national debate on "sanctuary cities" like San Francisco, where officials cannot detain a suspected undocumented immigrant unless additional requirements are met.
ICE Assistant Secretary Sarah Saldaña told Congress that 33 of 49 such cities are considering reforms, but met opposition from Republican senators when she warned that cities must be careful not to jeopardize the trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities.
“Yesterday, how many murderers did the Obama administration release?" Texas senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz asked.
"Now, Senator, I don't know the answer to that question,” Saldaña responded. Holding up a massive pile of law books, she added, “We don't release people willy-nilly. We release people pursuant to these statutes and regulations!"
The fiery exchanges continued.
Senator David Vitter, R-Louisiana asked, "When are there ever going to be any negative consequences for those jurisdictions? When is that going to change?"
Saldaña quickly replied, "I presume when you all address comprehensive immigration reform. Perhaps it can be addressed there."
Don Rosenberg of West Lake Village, Calif., who was sitting in the section reserved for the public, was arrested by Capitol Police for interrupting halfway through the emotional hearing. Rosenberg said his son was killed by an illegal immigrant in 2010.
Panel witness Laura Wilkerson, whose 18-year-old son Joshua was murdered, thanked Donald Trump for his role in elevating the issue.
"Thank you to Mr. Trump for getting a message out about the nation in two minutes," Wilkerson said. "It feels good to be heard- whether you love him or whether you don't. I felt heard. Our family is shattered."