Lawmakers Pursue Fight Against Sanctuary Cities


The House Committee on Rules reviewed two bills Tuesday that aim to combat sanctuary cities and enhance public safety. The House will vote on the bills, known as the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act and Kate’s Law, this week, perhaps as early as Thursday.


Meanwhile, President Trump Tuesday met with families victims of crime by illegal aliens and urged passage of the legislation.


The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act was introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Representatives Steve King (R-IA) and Andy Biggs (R-AZ). The bill targets sanctuary policies, which protect the status of unauthorized immigrants from federal immigration enforcement. It will do so by prohibiting local and state governments from refusing compliance with immigration laws or from cooperating with federal law enforcement agents.


Particularly, this bill would clarify Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents’ authorization to detain criminal aliens from local jails by establishing required probable cause standards to issue detainers. The legislation could make state and local governments with sanctuary policies ineligible for certain federal funds.


Another key measure in the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act is Sarah and Grant’s Law, which would ensure unauthorized immigrants convicted of driving under the influence or “arrested for other dangerous crimes” are detained during their removal proceedings, according to Goodlatte.


The second bill introduced is Kate’s Law, which focuses on protecting public safety by enhancing maximum sentence penalties for deported criminals who reenter the US. The bill was titled after Kate Steinle, who was murdered two years ago in San Francisco by an illegal alien who had been previously deported five times and was convicted of several felonies.


Current law states that any unauthorized individual who reenters the US is subject to up to two year sentences and enhanced penalties are granted under certain circumstances. Under Kate’s Law, any criminal unauthorized immigrant previously convicted of any three misdemeanors or felony prior to reentry could be subject to a maximum sentence of 10 years. Sentences for such individuals who are sentenced to an imprisonment term of no less than 30 months or 60 months could see up to 15- and 20-year sentences, respectively. Murder, rape and kidnapping felonies or any three felonies could also land criminal unauthorized individuals in prison for 25 years under this law.


Upon introducing the two bills, Goodlatte released a statement stating that increasing immigration enforcement will protect Americans.


“For years, the lack of immigration enforcement and the spread of dangerous sanctuary policies have failed the American people and cost too many lives,” Goodlatte stated. “The deaths of innocent Americans, such as Kate Steinle, Sarah Root, Grant Ronnebeck, and too many others, are tragic. Their deaths are especially devastating since they could have been prevented if our immigration laws had been enforced.”


Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) echoed Goodlatte’s words at the beginning of the hearing.


“The deterrents factors created by this legislation will ensure that criminal illegal aliens, I think, would think twice about coming back to the United States of America after they have committed these heinous crimes and fled,” Sessions said.


Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) also said, “I support the underlying bill, HR 3003 – No Sanctuary for Criminals Act … This legislation keeps dangerous criminal immigrants off our streets and out of our neighborhoods. And it holds sanctuary cities accountable for breaking federal immigration laws.”


Smith said, “I have a special interest in this legislation because it enforces a bill that I sponsored in 1996, which was enacted into law and made sanctuary cities illegal.”


Smith said, “The American people sent a clear message to Congress last November when they elected a president who promised to enforce our immigration laws,” noting that, “A recent poll shows that 80 percent of voters want ‘cities that arrest illegal immigrants for crimes to be required to turn them over to immigration authorities.'”


“The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act is a down payment on our pledge to protect innocent Americans from criminal immigrants who deserve to be jailed or sent back to their home countries,” Smith said.


“We need to enact this legislation,” Smith stressed, adding, “There is simply no excuse for local governments to ignore immigration laws at the expense of Americans’ safety and well-being.”


The bills did not go uncontested, however. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) testified at the hearing by arguing that the legislation presented appeals to the notion that all immigrants are criminals and expands the authority to prosecute and impose harsh penalties immigrants, including those with no criminal history. Lofgren also warned that coercing local government and officials to cooperate with federal agents could have consequences on effective and independent local law enforcement.


“[The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act] would drastically expand and indeed compel local involvement in federal immigration enforcement,” Lofgren said. “The bill strips localities of the ability to police themselves in the way they think best and including by having community trust policies that disentangle local law enforcement from federal immigration enforcement. These are policies that have proven to engender trust of local law enforcement and to drive down crime.”


Lofgren also cited that “numerous studies have found that high prison sentences do not have a deterrent effect.”


In recent years, “criminal alien arrests” by Border Patrol have decreased. According to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), there were 19,117 criminal alien arrests in Fiscal Year 2015 and 12,842 in FY 2016. In FY 2017, there have been 6,055 arrests so far. CBP also reported over half of these arrests in the past few fiscal years have been illegal entries and reentries.


Furthermore, ICE reported an overall increase in both interior and border removals of convicted criminals over the past few years. In FY 2011, 67 and 38 percent of all interior and border removals, respectively, were of convicted criminals. In FY 2016, 92 percent of all interior and 45 percent of all border removals conducted by ICE were of convicted criminals. Meanwhile, overall ICE removals have decreased, for the most part, in recent years, with 409,849 overall removals in FY 2011 and 240,255 in FY 2016.


The two House bills are not the first congressional efforts to combat sanctuary cities. The Senate has previously considered S 3100 and S 2193, which contain similar legislative measures as the House bills. They would withhold federal grants from sanctuary cities and increase prison terms for criminal unauthorized immigrants after reentering as well. However, both Senate bills failed to pass a cloture motion.