The father of Kate Steinle, the woman who was shot and killed on a San Francisco pier 20 days ago by an illegal immigrant and seven-time felon, urged Congress on Tuesday to do everything in its power to take illegal immigrants with multiple convictions off America's streets.

In emotional testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jim Steinle described his daughter as a "special soul" who had a "kind and giving heart, the most contagious laugh and a smile that would light up the room."

She also loved to spend time with her family, he said as he recalled the day she was killed. They were walking together, arm-in-arm, on Pier 14 in San Francisco "enjoying a wonderful day together."

"Suddenly, a shot rang out, Kate fell, and looked up at me and said, 'Help me, dad,'" he told the committee. "Those were the last words I will ever hear from my daughter."

His daughter had been shot by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an illegal immigrant who had been ordered deported several times. While federal officials asked the city not to release him, and to at least inform the federal government if he were released, the city ignored both requests and let him go.

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Since her death, he said his family has learned that there are currently 121 illegal immigrants with prior criminal convictions who have gone on to commit a homicide-related offense over the last year.

"That's one in every 12 days," he said.

"The U.S. has suffered a self-inflicted wound at the hand of our daughter," he said before urging Congress to take action.

His family, he said, would be proud to see Kate's name affiliated with legislation that puts an end to the practice of allowing states and counties to flout federal immigration detainer requests.

Steinle is supported by Republicans and even many Democrats who have called on San Francisco and other sanctuary cities to follow the nation's immigration laws, and to stop creating safe zones for illegal immigrants. At the same hearing, Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said it makes no sense for any city to ignore federal law.

"This is disturbing — not only to me, but to most Americans," Grassley said. "There is no good rationale for noncooperation between the feds and state and local law enforcement."