Senators Push New Bill to End Sanctuary Cities

Legislation would withhold federal funding from cities, states that ignore federal immigration laws and harbor illegal immigrants

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), along with nine of his Senate colleagues, signed on as an original cosponsor of the Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act, introduced Tuesday night by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.).

The legislation would withhold certain federal funding from sanctuary states or cities that fail to comply with Department of Homeland Security requests to detain illegal aliens. The bill would redirect these funds to states and localities that follow the law. Vitter is working with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the measure to the full Senate for a vote within the next few weeks.

Besides Sen. Johnson, other original cosponsors include Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).

“As chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I have focused on ensuring that our borders are secure and that our communities are safe,” said Sen. Johnson. “At a recent committee hearing, an official from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) testified that ICE was unable to deport Kate Steinle's murderer because San Francisco did not honor the ICE detainer.  In fact, the criminal alien admitted that he went to San Francisco because of its lenient immigration enforcement policies. Sanctuary jurisdictions that do not cooperate with the enforcement of federal immigration laws or do not honor federal immigration detainers should not receive federal funding. Moreover, legislation should be passed that provides liability protection to jurisdictions that honor federal detainers and hold aliens until ICE can pick them up.  This is necessary, as recent court decisions have led many jurisdictions to release criminal aliens due to liability concerns.  The Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act provides these important reforms, making communities safer and bringing the country closer to a secure border. I am pleased to support this effort and encourage quick action on the Senate floor.”

“There is absolutely no reason that any U.S. city should be allowed to ignore our nation’s immigration laws and provide a safe harbor for illegal immigrants. Our legislation will stop sending sanctuary cities federal taxpayer dollars, so hopefully they get a clue,” said Sen. Vitter. “Three months ago, Kate Steinle was murdered in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant who should have never been walking the streets in the first place. In the time since Ms. Steinle’s death, we have seen similar murders and other terrible acts of violence against law abiding citizens across the United States — it is outrageous that the policies allowing these crimes to happen have not changed.‎ We need to send a loud and clear message to any sanctuary cities that their dangerous policies are not acceptable.”

In efforts to curb the formation or the continuation of sanctuary cities, this legislation:

  • Defines a sanctuary jurisdiction as a state or locality that prohibits its law enforcement officers from cooperating with federal immigration officials, even if they wish to do so.
  • Provides transparency by requiring the DHS to publicly list which jurisdictions are deemed sanctuary jurisdictions.
  • Withholds certain federal funds and grants from sanctuary jurisdictions.
  • Requires that those withheld funds are reallocated and made available to other jurisdictions that allow their local law enforcement to cooperate with federal officials.
  • Confirms that local law enforcement personnel have the legal authority to cooperate with federal immigration officials if they wish, while protecting individuals’ civil rights and preserving individuals’ ability to sue for violations of civil and constitutional rights.
  • Kate’s Law: Establishes a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for illegal immigrants who are 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 before.

Currently, there are about 170,000 convicted criminal aliens who have been ordered to be deported but who remain at large in the United States. Over 200 cities currently provide safe haven as sanctuary cities.

The legislation is supported by National Association of Police Organizations, the National Sheriffs Association, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the International Union of Police Associations, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).