The Obama administration has vowed to veto legislation approved by the House of Representatives on June 23 that targets so-called “sanctuary cities”
for their failure to cooperate with Federal authorities enforcing immigration laws. Sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), the bill seeks to penalize local jurisdictions that either oppose the collection of information on immigrants or refuse to cooperate with Federal “detainer” requests. The bill would block sanctuary cities from receiving certain federal grants and funding for law enforcement. The bill passed passed 241-179, largely along partisan lines. The Senate is considering similar legislation. “The American people have the right to not give their tax dollars to municipalities and states that do not follow federal law,” said Hunter. “The fact that San Francisco and L.A. and other cities disagree with the politics of federal enforcement does not give them a free pass to subvert the law.”
Six Democrats voted in favor, breaking with their party which has previously voted as a block. They are Reps. Ami Bera (Calif.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Bill Keating (Mass.), Collin Peterson (Minn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.).
Five Republicans voted against the bill. They are Reps. Carlos Curbelo (Fla.), Bob Dold (Ill.), Dan Donovan (N.Y.), Pete King (N.Y.) and Dave Reichert (Wash.).
“Sanctuary city policies needlessly endanger American lives by refusing to honor the federal government’s authority to enforce immigration laws,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) in a statement. “Unfortunately, the Obama Administration’s own foolish policies enable rogue local governments to defy federal immigration laws. All too often, these reckless policies create preventable tragedies.”
The legislation already faces a White House veto threat. The White House said the bill “fails to offer” comprehensive reforms and undermines current efforts to remove dangerous convicted criminals and work with local law enforcement. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on July 22 that President Barack Obama prefers comprehensive immigration reform, such as the legilsation passed by a Democratic Senate in 2013. The Republican House never took up that legislation. “These are the kinds of enforcement provisions that were included in the law that Republicans blocked,” Earnest said. “So when they raise concerns about how effectively our immigration system is working to keep the community safe, they have no one to blame but themselves.”
In addition, a coalition of 21 mayors condemned the bill, warning that curtailing Federal law enforcement grants to cities would endanger public safety. “Overbroad immigration enforcement undermines safety for all,” they wrote in a letter to Congress. “When immigrant residents can report crime without fear of deportation, immigrants are more willing to engage with local police and government institutions, our streets and neighborhoods are safer, and those who commit crime are more likely to be brought to justice.”
Angry Democrats accused Republicans of aligning themselves with Donald Trump, who visited the border town of Laredo on July 23 to once again call for an end to illegal immigration. Democrats have tried to tag Republicans with Trump’s views, as well as his statements about Mexicans that some have found offensive. “Just a few weeks into his campaign and Donald Trump has a bill on the floor of the House. That is better than some of the senators he’s running against.” said Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL). Another Latino Democrat, Rep. Xavier Becerra of California referred to the bill as the “Donald Trump Act.”
Some Republicans have denied that Trump has inspired their stand on sanctuary cities. “This is a valid concern that we’re voting on today,” said Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), who added, “I’m not going to let Donald Trump dictate my vote.”
The legislation was apparently sparked by the July 1 killing of young Kathryn Steinle (32) in California. She was shot, allegedly, by illegal immigrant Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez who by the local sheriff in April 2015. Lopez Sanchez had already been deported five times and had a long felony criminal record. When Federal officials turned him over to San Francisco on an outstanding warrant earlier this year, he was released without notification to the Federal government. San Francisco argued there were no grounds on which to hold him. The case stirred new debate over local jurisdictions that do cooperate with Federal immigration agencies. The victim’s father, Jim Steinle, called on legislators to support change to immigration law.
Outspoken Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said at the hearing, "There are criminals motivated by malice and a conscious disregard for the lives of others, and there are cities more interested in providing a sanctuary for those criminals than they are in providing a sanctuary for their law-abiding citizens.” He added, "This is more than an academic discussion. ... It is quite literally life and death." He went on to say, “A refuge for whom? A sanctuary for whom? A sanctuary for Kate Steinle? Or a refuge for a convicted felon with a 25-year-long criminal history?”
Some Democrats appeared to agree with Jim Steinle’s demand for reform, but differ with Republicans. Democrats have been calling for what has been termed comprehensive immigration reform, while Republicans want current laws enforced by all. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), for instance, said that the proposed legislation is “not about grabbing criminals” but about “grabbing headlines.” At least one Republican, however, expressed opposition to the bill. A supporter of comprehensive reform, Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) claimed that the bill would not have saved the life of Kathryn Steinle. "This is an exercise, this is not a solution," Curbelo told reporters. "This may generate a headline, but it's not going to solve a problem."
Of Kathryn Steinle’s death, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said “We have a horrible tragedy that was preventable," adding, "Cities do not have the right to ignore federal laws that require them to incarcerate people who have committed serious felonies."
"The appetite for amnesty has diminished dramatically after we see the carnage in the streets of America at the hands of criminal aliens that should have been removed from the country," said Rep. Steve King (R-IA). "And so that means that now the climate is much better to try to move down the line on enforcement." King said that he has received a commitment from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) that the House will take up related legislation later this year. What the Senate might do appears uncertain, since the upper chamber will be focused soon on transportation legislation until the August recess.
Scores of cities, including major metropolitan areas that are key to the electoral success of the various presidential candidates, are among those that have become defacto “sanctuaries” for illegal immigrants. Rather than actual ordinances, this has been done as matter of policy, sometimes announced by city councils or even law enforcement.
Among the cities listed by the OJJPAC.o
rg website as offering “sanctuary” are the following:
California: San Francisco, Los Angeles
Connecticut: Hartford, New Haven
Illinois: Chicago, Cicero, Evanston
Massachusetts: Cambridge, Chelsea
Michigan: Detroit, Ann Arbor
Minnesota: Minneapolis, St. Paul, Worthington
New Jersey: Camden, Fort Lee, Jersey City, Newark, Trenton, Union City
New Mexico: Albuquerque, Santa Fe
New York: New York City, Brentwood, Central Islip, Uniondale, Westbury
North Carolina: Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Durham, Raleigh, Winston-Salem
Ohio: Columbus, Dayton, Lima, Lorain
Oklahoma: Oklahoma City, Tulsa
Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
Rhode Island: Providence
Texas: Austin, Brownsville, Dallas, Fort Worth, Laredo, McAllen, Port Arthur
Utah: Salt Lake City
Virginia: Alexandria, Fairfax County, Virginia Beach
Vermont: Burlington, Middlebury
Washington: Seattle, Spokane
Wisconsin: Madison, Milwaukee
Wyoming: Jackson Hole
Washington D.C.: The Washington D.C. City Council vote in 2010 to prohibit the police department from participating in the Secure Communities program, according to AP wire services