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senate Bill S. 2059

Should Individuals Harmed by Sanctuary City Policies be Allowed to Pursue Civil Remedies?

Argument in favor

Sanctuary city policies put law-abiding citizens at risk. While it’s not possible to prevent local governments from adopting sanctuary city policies, such places should be subject to civil actions to compensate people harmed by such policies.

Argument opposed

Sanctuary jurisdiction policies make cities safer. By making jurisdictions subject to civil action for having such policies, this bill would make them less likely to adopt sanctuary city policies.

bill Progress

  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
    IntroducedJuly 9th, 2019

What is Senate Bill S. 2059?

This bill — the Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act of 2019 — would provide a civil remedy for individuals harmed by “sanctuary jurisdiction” policies. The statute of limitations for such actions would be 10 years. Any sanctuary city or jurisdiction that refuses to waive its immunity from sanctuary-related civil action would be subject to the withholding of certain Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding.

Sanctuary jurisdictions would be defined as state or local governments which have a statute, policy, or practice that prohibits or restricts the sharing of information regarding an individual’s immigration status, or compliance with a lawfully issued detainer request or a notification of release request.


Sanctuary cities; people harmed by sanctuary city policies; and civil actions to remedy those affected by sanctuary city policies.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 2059

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced this bill in response to sanctuary policies in his home state of North Carolina, which he argues have resulted in dangerous environments for citizens

“Earlier this month, the Mecklenburg County (NC) Sheriff’s Office refused to notify ICE and comply with a lawful detainer request when it released a dangerous illegal immigrant from county jail who was charged with multiple domestic violence charges for strangling a woman and threatening to kill her. This was only one of more than 20 troubling instances this year of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office releasing potentially dangerous individuals after refusing to comply with detainer requests. The reckless sanctuary policy prompted criticism from the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. It’s disturbing to see sheriffs across North Carolina establish sanctuary jurisdictions, releasing dangerous individuals back into communities while refusing to notify federal immigration officials. If politicians want to prioritize reckless sanctuary policies over public safety, they should also be willing to provide just compensation for the victims.”

In a statement to McClatchy, Sen. Tillis added:

“If you, as a local elected official, believe that your policies are consistent with your electorate and you want to do these policies, we’ll defer to the local government. But if you get it wrong, the victims are going to have rights.”

Original cosponsor and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) adds

“A good piece of legislation that is long overdue. There must be consequences for governments and entities that gamble with public safety, refuse to work with federal officials, and refuse to deal with felons here illegally. This legislation empowers individuals who are the victims of these entities and governments’ poor decisions.”

House sponsor Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) says

“I’ve been following sanctuary cities for some time now and the effects that they have on local communities. I’ve found that sanctuary cities’ failure to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is reckless and has had a real cost on society, both economically and in terms of human lives. It strikes me as common sense to introduce and pursue legislation that allows families and victims recourse against municipalities and policies that have caused them so much damage. Currently, they have none. I want to thank Rep. Bradley Bryne for introducing this bill with me in the House and Senator Thom Tillis for his leadership on this issue in the Senate.”

One Nation supports this bill. In a press release, its Communications Director, Jack Pandol, says

“One Nation has a long track record of advocating against lawless ‘sanctuary cities’ that put their own residents at risk in the name of liberal ideology. Senator Tillis’ legislation holds rogue jurisdictions accountable and protects law-abiding citizens from dangerous criminals who have also broken our immigration laws. We’re in this fight for the long haul and are encouraged that Senator Tillis and his colleagues are committed to making our communities safer.”

President Trump has consistently criticized sanctuary cities. He has also contended that they encourage unauthorized immigration. Earlier this year, he considered placing unauthorized immigrants into sanctuary cities as punishment, but ultimately decided not to. At the time, he said

“We'll bring them to sanctuary city areas and let that particular area take care of it, whether it's a state or whatever it might be. California certainly is always saying, 'Oh, we want more people.' And they want more people in their sanctuary cities. Well, we'll give them more people. We can give them a lot. We can give them an unlimited supply, and let's see if they're so happy." 

President Trump has praised this bill, saying it will “give American victims the right to sue sanctuary cities and hold them accountable for the thousands of lives they have shattered.” 

After this bill’s introduction, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry L. McFadden released a statement in response

“Published summaries of the ‘Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act’ suggest that this proposed legislation would set priorities for public safety in direct defiance of the demands of a huge number of North Carolinians, including the overwhelming majority of those living in seven of the state’s largest counties which make up close to 40% of the state’s total population. Sheriffs are elected to honor the mandates of their respective local communities with regard to, among other things, honoring voluntary Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers and entering into 287(g) Agreements with ICE. Any attempt to force Sheriffs nationwide to detain individuals for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will not only negatively impact public safety in Mecklenburg County, NC, it will significantly erode the authority of all duly elected Sheriffs. The proposed legislation would strip the ability of states and local communities to establish their own public safety policies within their respective jurisdictions. Senator Tillis claims this is “commonsense legislation that will enhance public safety and hold sanctuary jurisdictions accountable for their refusal to cooperate with federal law enforcement.” Where is the concerted effort to hold the federal government accountable for its own significant immigration law failures? Where is the justice for the victim of a crime let alone the community as a whole that deserves to see charges prosecuted and the accused held accountable rather than simply deported before the criminal justice system has had the chance to work? If ICE believes an individual to be so extremely dangerous that he should remain in custody notwithstanding his ability to meet the terms and conditions of release set by a state court judge or magistrate, and ICE knows that individual has been previously deported, ICE can seek federal felony charges which would require a local Sheriff to hold that individual in custody. But legislation aimed at strong-arming the nation’s duly elected Sheriffs and bullying local governments into cooperation with ICE would be not only unconstitutional, it would do nothing to enhance public safety or cure the many decades of failures by the federal government to resolve ICE issues.”

In Sen. Tillis’ home state of North Carolina, several black sheriffs, particularly in large metropolitan areas across the state, swept into office last November promising to limit their collaboration with ICE. In Mecklenburg and Wake Counties, new sheriffs pulled out of the 287(g) program, a voluntary partnership that has some deputies effectively work as ICE officers. Those sheriffs, along with sheriffs in three other counties, have also stopped honoring immigration detainers to hold inmates for up to 48 hours after they’ve completed their sentences or posted bond so that federal agents can come pick them up.

Sanctuary policy proponents, such as California Gov. Gavin Newsom and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (both Democrats), argue that these policies actually make cities safer because unauthorized immigrants are more likely to cooperate with local law enforcement if they aren’t constantly in fear of deportation.

El Pueblo, Inc., a Raleigh-based advocacy group for immigrants, opposes this legislation. Its political director, Moises Serrano, says this proposal interferes in local law enforcement’s efforts to build trust with immigrant communities

“Cooperation with ICE is optional. Local counties and local sheriffs are within their full federal right to not comply with immigration authorities. This legislation is about specifically demonizing and spreading xenophobia about the immigrant community.”

This bill has eight Senate cosponsors. Its House companion, sponsored by Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC), has one House cosponsor, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL).

Of Note: 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: / nwbob)


Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act of 2019

Official Title

A bill to provide a civil remedy for individuals harmed by sanctuary jurisdiction policies, and for other purposes.

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