Immigration News Today: Senate Republicans Renew Efforts to Defund Sanctuary Cities

First Posted: Oct 08, 2015 03:43 PM EDT
David Vitter

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., questions Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray during the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on the CFPB’s semi-annual report to Congress on Wednesday, July 15, 2015.
(Photo : Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)
Republican senators have continued the effort to defund “sanctuary cities” from receiving certain federal funds if such cities don’t comply with federal requests on immigrant detainees.

Sanctuary cities are jurisdictions that have decided to not follow with U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) request for detained immigrants. The “Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act” (S.2146), introduced by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., would defund some federal dollars from the sanctuary cities and “redirect these funds to states and localities that follow the law.”
According to a statement from Vitter, he has been working with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to vote on the legislation in the next few weeks. So far, the bill’s co-sponsors are fellow Republicans and include two presidential candidates: Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.


The topic of sanctuary cities reignited following the death of Kathryn Steinle by an undocumented immigrant. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who was deported from the U.S. on five occasions due to drug-related felonies, shot Steinle in California. He was previously released from a San Francisco jail last April, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency within DHS, requested his detention in order for an ICE agent to pick him up.
“Kate Steinle’s murder tragically exposed the dangers of an inconsistent and ineffectual immigration enforcement policy, which encourages flagrant violations of our laws,” said Rubio, in a statement. “We need to fix our broken immigration system, but we can’t do it as long as the belief persists that our immigration laws can be violated without any consequences.”
Rubio’s inclusion comes two years after he was an original co-sponsor of the Senate’s bipartisan comprehensive immigration legislation, “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” (S.744). The Senate bill called for several hundred miles of fencing on the southern U.S. border, in addition to an employment verification system for immigrants, training for nearly 38,405 full-time active duty U.S. Border Patrol agents, and it would have allowed the U.S. Attorney General to increase the number of immigration court judges and reform the visa process.
Cruz said jurisdictions should not accept federal taxpayer money while “turning a blind eye to the illegal aliens in their midst.” The Texas senator added that current laws are not enough to deter immigrants who have already been deported from the U.S.
“Of course, stiff penalties alone will not suffice. Congress must hold this (Obama) Administration accountable for its failure-if not its outright refusal-to enforce federal immigration laws and ensure the safety and protection of the American people,” said Cruz.
The “Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act” would also require DHS to publicly list the “sanctuary” jurisdictions, hold funds and grants to any aforementioned jurisdictions and establish a mandatory five-year sentence to immigrants — previously convicted of re-entering the U.S. “after being convicted of an aggravated felony or being convicted of having illegally re-entered the U.S. twice prior.”
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