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

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.

Kowall introduces bill to prohibit sanctuary cities

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall introduced a bill on Wednesday that would prohibit local units of government from enacting or enforcing “sanctuary city” laws.

Sanctuary cities prevent local employees from notifying federal authorities of illegal aliens living in their communities.

Kowall’s measure, Senate Bill 445, also would prohibit any state funding or other resources from going to sanctuary cities.

“The recent tragic death of Kate Steinle in San Francisco at the hands of an illegal alien — who also was a repeat felon who had been deported five times — should be a wakeup call for all of us,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “Because of San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy, that city ignored a request by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency regarding the suspect in Ms. Steinle’s murder.

“Her death could have been prevented. We must put an end to sanctuary cities in Michigan so a similar tragedy doesn’t occur here.”

On Monday, Kowall announced that he had set up an online petition, www.signtostop.com, calling for the prohibition of sanctuary cities in Michigan.

“We already have had thousands of Michiganders sign the petition calling for an end to sanctuary cities,” Kowall said. “I am encouraged by the response and I urge all Michiganders to sign.”

While Kowall is working to eliminate the threat of sanctuary cities in Michigan, he supports efforts underway to welcome skilled legal immigrants to Michigan.

“I myself am from a family of immigrants who came to America legally to pursue the American dream and live under our laws,” Kowall said. “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.”

Kowall said he supports 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.

Kowall announces online petition to call for an end to sanctuary cities

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall announced on Monday that he has set up an online petition calling for the prohibition of sanctuary cities in Michigan.

A sanctuary city is one that adopts policies that prohibit employees from notifying federal authorities of illegal aliens living in their communities. Sanctuary cities recently came to national attention after a San Francisco woman was killed on July 1, allegedly by an undocumented immigrant who later confessed to the crime.

“I am strongly opposed to any Michigan cities violating the laws of America, leading to safe havens for murderers, drug dealers and other criminals,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “The city of San Francisco ignored a request by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to let them know if they were going to release the suspect in this case, who was an illegal alien and a repeat felon who had been deported five times to Mexico.

“We must do everything we can to put an end to these laws in Michigan and prevent such a brazen disregard for the law, which could end with a similar tragedy here.”

Kowall’s petition can be found at www.signtostop.com.

The lawmaker said he will be immediately introducing legislation that would prohibit any state funding or other resources from going to sanctuary cities.

While Kowall is working to eliminate the threat of sanctuary cities in Michigan, he supports efforts underway to welcome skilled legal immigrants to Michigan.

“I myself am from a family of immigrants who came to America legally to pursue the American dream and live under our laws,” Kowall said. “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.”

Kowall said he supports 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.

Spinal Column: Senate Republicans are Fixing MI Roads with a comprehensive, long-term solution

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Michigan families are keenly aware of the difference between the condition of our roads and those of our neighboring states.

Having adequate funding for roads and bridges is about ensuring the safety of everyone on our roads, protecting drivers from potholes and costly car repairs, and competing for jobs in an economy increasingly dependent on the efficient transportation of goods.

Michigan’s infrastructure problem is huge, but Senate Republicans have devised a solution to address it, known as the Fixing MI Roads initiative.

Our plan is a fiscally responsible, long-term solution to meeting our infrastructure needs.

We start with placing a greater priority in the budget on fixing our roads. We are making sure gas and diesel tax revenue goes toward fixing our roads, and we are requiring $700 million from income tax revenue goes toward our infrastructure — every year — at the beginning of the budget process.

At the root of our roads problem is that Michigan’s roads and bridges have been underfunded for decades. According to a recent Senate Fiscal Agency report, Michigan ranks dead last in the nation for per-person annual spending on maintaining transportation infrastructure.

As a result, Michigan has the highest percentage of bridges rated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete among all of the Great Lakes states.

Under the Fixing MI Roads solution, coupled with smarter budgeting, the state income tax will lower and the gas and diesel tax will rise modestly in three phases.

The state’s gas and diesel taxes would increase by five cents beginning this October and again in January 2016 and January 2017. When fully phased in, this would generate $800 million.

The impact for residents at the pump would be minimal. Importantly, revenue from the gas and diesel tax would go to fixing, maintaining and improving our roads and bridges.

To help Michigan families, we created a system to automatically reduce our state’s personal income tax every time General Fund growth exceeds the rate of inflation — putting money directly back in the pockets of taxpayers.

It is not just about funding. Any long-lasting solution must be comprehensive to succeed.

Fixing MI Roads includes reforms to reduce the cost of repairs without sacrificing quality and safety, ensure the bidding for infrastructure projects is more competitive and protect taxpayers by demanding that road work is warrantied to last.

If we expect to fix our roads and bridges, we have to invest in the solution.

Our solution strikes a balance between reprioritizing resources and guaranteeing that revenue is dedicated to roads.

Everyone knows that Michigan’s roads and bridges are in terrible shape and will continue to get worse without a long-term course of action to address the problem.

I am committed to working with my colleagues and the governor to end decades of frustration and enact a long-term solution that finally fixes Michigan’s roads.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column newsweekly. 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.