In-Depth: Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX) introduced this bill to defund sanctuary cities:
“Sanctuary cities operate in blatant disregard toward the rule of law at the peril of law-abiding residents and citizens. With every violent crime committed by an undocumented immigrant, we are reminded of the importance of enforcing the law. If liberal local and state officials wish to have a nation without borders and laws, they will have to learn to live without federal funding for their harmful policies. Sanctuary cities encourage thousands of migrants to cross the border illegally. Places like San Francisco and Austin send the message that there’s no need to follow the official process and obtain legal status. As a border state, we feel the impact of illegal immigration first and worst. Cities that choose to violate federal immigration policy should consider the ramifications of their misguided policies.”
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) supports this bill. Matthew Tragesser, a Communications Specialist at the organization, says:
“Sanctuary jurisdictions threaten public safety and disregard the rule of law. This important legislation would ensure that localities do not adopt these dangerous policies while still receiving financial and material support from the Department of Homeland Security. Further, protecting cooperative jurisdictions from frivolous civil action is an important step in encouraging state and local law enforcement to honor detainer notices from federal immigration authorities.”
The Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia (HBA-DC), along with a broad coalition of state and local governments, law enforcement, advocacy and religious organizations expressed opposition to a similar bill, the Stop Sanctuary Cities Act (S.1814), in 2015. In their letter, the coalition argued that withholding federal law enforcement funding from sanctuary cities seeks to “penalize municipalities that exercise local police discretion limiting inquiries into the citizenship or immigration status of local residents in order to build trust in the community and promote local public safety goals.” They wrote:
“To characterize these municipalities as ‘sanctuary’ zones is misleading. These cities have exercised their traditional local police powers by recognizing that immigrant victims and witnesses will not report crime, and crimes will go unsolved and unpunished, if immigrants fear that local police are acting as immigration agents. Moreover, state and local governments would do well to distance themselves from bills… forc[ing] jurisdictions to join in immigration enforcement schemes that courts have already declared constitutionally deficient and that compound the problem by instituting senseless mandatory sentencing. While the purported intent of [such bills] is to make America’s communities more secure… [they] will have the opposite effect.”
The coalition argued that taking federal funding away from sanctuary cities would “virtually dismantle long-standing policies that promote equitable policing and safeguard against the diversion of police resources away from their core mission of protecting public safety” and “perpetuate the entanglement of local police in immigration enforcement… embroiling local police in federal immigration enforcement will erode the trust and cooperation between local law enforcement and the immigrant community and result in damage to public safety.”
Finally, the coalition questioned the legality of bills supporting DHS detainers. Citing federal courts’ rulings that DHS detainers don’t comply with the Fourth Amendment due to their lack of reliance on probable cause or a warrant, the coalition argued that bills requiring compliance with DHS detainers put state and municipal governments in the position of making the “impossible choice of either violating the Constitution or losing vital federal law enforcement funding that helps them fight crime.”
This bill has 19 Republican cosponsors and has not yet received a committee vote. It has the support of Heritage Action for America, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA Action.
Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) has introduced another bill taking federal funding from sanctuary cities, the No Federal Funding to Benefit Sanctuary Cities Act (H.R. 1885). Rep. Rooney’s bill has one cosponsor, Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX) and has yet to receive a committee vote.
Of Note: America’s Voice, a liberal immigration reform group, argues that “scary things can happen when immigrants become afraid of the police.” It cites the example of Houston, where the police chief noted that the number of Hispanics reporting rape had decreased 42.8% from 2016 to 2017 and the number reporting other violent crimes had dropped 13%, despite crimes reported by non-Hispanics increasing over the same period (Houston has resisted a Texas law precluding it from operating as a sanctuary city). Similarly, in March 2017, the Los Angeles Police Department reported decreased sexual assault reports due to “a climate of fear in immigrant communities” and NPR reported that fear of deportation had caused four women to drop domestic abuse cases in Denver (Los Angeles and Denver are both sanctuary cities). With this in mind, many law enforcement officers, including the Fraternal Order of Police, a membership organization that endorsed Donald Trump in the 2016 election, have endorsed backing off on the idea of punishing cities or their police departments for immigrant-friendly sanctuary policies.
In its 2012 decision in the Obamacare case National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) v. Sebelius, the Supreme Court found that Congress couldn’t constitutionally take away all Medicaid funding from states if they didn’t expand Medicaid coverage. In its ruling, the Court wrote, “Permitting the Federal Government to force the States to implement a federal program would threaten the political accountability key to our federal system.” Arguably, the same principle may apply in this case.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a crackdown on sanctuary cities a centerpiece of his time at the Justice Dept., where he said sanctuary cities are safe harbors for violent international cartels. In a 2017 speech, Sessions said sanctuary cities put “innocent life, including the lives of countless law-abiding immigrants, in danger.”
Indeed, there have been cases of U.S. citizens and residents being physically hurt — and even killed — by unauthorized immigrants. For example, Alexander Mazin, 27, was shot and killed in a San Diego parking lot in February 2018. The suspected shooter, Ernesto Castellanos Martinez, was reported to be the ex-boyfriend of the women Mazin had recently started dating and a twice-deported unauthorized immigrant. After killing Mazin, he fled to Mexico.
In another case in Houston in 2015, Spencer Golvach was shot and killed by an unauthorized immigrant at a traffic light. His mother, Julie Golvach, said in a January 2019 on "Fox & Friends" that the unauthorized immigrant crisis only seems "manufactured" to Democratic leadership because "they are sitting safely behind walls." She said that "for those of us out in regular America, we are victims, we are prone to the victimization of illegal aliens and crime."
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / RonBailey)