House Passes Legislation Against Sanctuary Cities

The House Thursday approved legislation, the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act (HR 3003), to strengthen public safety by “combating” what backers of the bill said are “dangerous sanctuary policies that permit criminal” aliens to go free. Bill authors House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Rep. Steve King (R-IOWA) and Andy Biggs (R-AZ), applauded House passage of the legislation.

President Trump met with families and victims of crime by illegal aliens while urging the House to pass the legislation. Afterwards, he said in a statement, “During my campaign, I met many grieving families who all had the same plea: lawmakers must put the safety of American families first. I applaud the House for passing two crucial measures to save and protect American lives.  These were bills I campaigned on and that are vital to our publicsafety and national security. The first bill, Kate’s Law, increases criminal penalties for illegal immigrants who repeatedly re-enter the country illegally. The bill is named for Kate Steinle, who was killed by an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times. Every year, countless Americans are victimized, assaulted and killed by illegal immigrants who have been deported multiple times. It is time for these tragedies to end.”

“The second bill, the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act,” Trump said, “restricts taxpayer grant money to cities that prevent their police from turning over dangerous criminal aliens to federal authorities. Sanctuary cities are releasing violent criminals, including members of the bloodthirsty MS-13 gang, back onto our streets every single day. Innocent Americans are suffering unthinkable violence as a result of these cities’ reckless actions. The House bill also includes what is known as Grant’s Law and Sarah’s Law. These provisions, which prevent the release of dangerous criminals awaiting removal proceedings, are named for two slain Americans whose parents I spent time with during the campaign.”

“The implementation of these policies will make communities safer. Opposing these bills, and allowing dangerous criminals back into our communities, our schools, and the neighborhoods where our children play, puts all of us at risk,” Trump declared, adding, “Now that the House has acted, I urge the Senate to take up these bills, pass them, and send them to my desk. I am calling on all lawmakers to vote for these bills and to save American lives.”

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, the 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.

The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act strengthens the law to combat dangerous sanctuary policies that shield unlawful and criminal immigrants from federal immigration enforcement. Specifically, the bill clarifies ICE detainer authority—the tool used by federal immigration enforcement officers to pick up criminal aliens from local jails—by establishing statutory probable cause standards to issue detainers for the first time. It also withholds certain federal grants from jurisdictions that violate federal law by prohibiting their officers from communicating with ICE. The bill would also protected jurisdictions that comply with detainers from being sued, while allowing victims of crime to sue jurisdictions that refuse to comply and subsequently release criminal aliens onto the streets.

Another key measure in the No Sanctuaryfor 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.

Kate’s Law focuses on protecting public safety by enhancing maximum sentence penalties for deported criminals who reenter the US. The bill is named 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 10years. 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.

“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.”

“Sanctuary cities needlessly jeopardize innocent lives,” Goodlatte said, stressing that, “By refusing to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement authorities, sanctuary policies allow unlawful and criminal immigrants to be released onto the streets. We are all too familiar with how dangerous sanctuary policies have devastated families across the United States and we must strengthen the law to combat such recklessness.”

Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) echoed Goodlatte’s words, saying, “The deterrent 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.”

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.

Including Sarah’s Law language in this legislation is a huge step forward to ensure criminals don’t fall through the cracks because of current bureaucratic confusion. Sarah’s Law was written in honor of Sarah Root, an Iowan and Third Congressional District constituent who was tragically killed by an illegal immigrant in January of 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska.

Sarah’s Law seeks to prevent future cases like this by amending existing mandatory detention provisions in place under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by requiring ICE to take custody of any individual who has entered or remains in the United States illegally and is also charged with a crime resulting in the death or serious bodily injury of another person.

“Sarah’s death is a tragedy which has left the Root family and our community in mourning,” Young said. “While we cannot bring Sarah back, including Sarah’s Law language in this legislation is a positive step in making sure this type of tragedy never happens again. I will continue to do what I can as a lawmaker to honor her memory and work to prevent senseless tragedies like this in the future.”

“The release of Sarah Root’s killer was a horrendous failure, enabling her murderer to dodge justice” said Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon. “This bill will ensure that Sarah and her family get that justice, and that this cannot happen to another family. They deserve better and we say never again.”

“I am encouraged to see parts of our bill, Sarah’s Law, included in legislation passed by the House today,” said Iowa Senator Joni Ernst. "In particular, this legislation would require federal immigration authorities to detain those here illegally who harm American citizens. While we will need to carefully review the entirety of the legislation before moving forward in the Senate, this move to include language from Sarah’s Law honors Sarah Root’s legacy and works to ensure that no other family falls victim to the injustice the Root family has faced.”

“When illegal immigrants enter our country and violate the law, it can lead to disastrous consequences. The tragic example of my own constituent, Sarah Root, whose life was taken far too early, left her family, friends and community irreparably scarred,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley. “Unfortunately, Sarah’s death is not an isolated case. Many innocent Americans have been seriously injured, and in some cases killed, because of the actions of some illegal immigrant criminals. Local authorities must cooperate with federal law enforcement in order to make our communities safer by taking criminal immigrants off the streets. I hope now the Senate will do its part to protect American lives.”

“Today, our loved ones who have passed due to illegal immigrants have had their voices heard,” said Michelle Root, Sarah’s mother. “What was in place did not protect my daughter, the goal should be to protect citizens and honor those who have passed.”

“Kate Steinle isn’t the only victim of illegal immigrant crime, only one of the more publicized victims,” said Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC). “Earlier this month in Reston, Virginia, an illegal immigrant member of the infamous MS-13 gang allegedly murdered a 16-year old girl who was walking to her mosque on a Sunday morning.  These crimes have become all too common, and are completely preventable if our government did a better job securing our border and enforcing our immigration laws.”

“That’s why I was proud to support Kate’s Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act. It is time for us to Make America Safe Again. Make no doubt, we have a long way to go to make our country safe from illegal immigrants. We need to beef up interior enforcement and border enforcement, and we need to complete the physical barriers on our southern border as demanded by the Secure Fence Act of 2006. But today’s actions are a good start. I will continue to work with President Trump and my colleagues in the House to secure our country from the threats of terrorism and illegal immigration.”

The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act now moves to the Senate for consideration. President Trump has expressed his support for this legislation and has stated that he is “looking forward to signing it into law.”

The bills did not go uncontested, however. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) testified at a 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.”

Meanwhile, America’sVoice Education Fund said, "These bills would supercharge President Trump’s costly and cruel approach to immigration by scapegoating immigrants; undercutting local law enforcement and prosecution efforts; giving even more authority to immigration enforcement agencies ICE and DHS; and ramping up deportations beyond the currently outrageous levels."

According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, “The immigration enforcement approach championed by the Trump administration and embodied by Bob Goodlatte’s bills would harm, rather than help, public safety. Indiscriminate deportations and targeting deeply-rooted families is not only contrary to who we are as a nation, but contrary to good law enforcement practices. Despite the costs and consequences already on display throughout the country, House Republicans are poised to put the Trump administration’s existing cruel approach into overdrive.”

The group said the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act "would undermine local law enforcement, interfere with local policing, and endanger local community prosecutions. Among its provisions, this bill seeks to strip millions of dollars in federal law enforcement funding and public safety grants from more than 600 jurisdictions and states that prioritize community policing and ensure that their local law enforcement agencies are not de facto immigration enforcement agents."

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) said, “Rather than empowering localities, the extremely broad wording of HR 3003 would strip localities of the ability to enact common-sense crime prevention policies that ensure victims of crime will seek protection and report crimes. The bill would also undermine public safety by prohibiting DHS from honoring criminal warrants of communities deemed ‘sanctuary cities’ if the individual being sought by local law enforcement has a final order of removal … In an effort to force localities to engage in civil immigration enforcement efforts, including those against nonviolent undocumented immigrants, the bill would make it far more difficult for many localities, including large cities, to arrest and prosecute potentially dangerous criminals.”

Additionally, the America’s Voice Education Fund said "by forcing jurisdictions to honor ICE detainers, this bill could run afoul of both the Fourth and Tenth Amendments of the Constitution. Finally, HR 3003 would expand the Trump administration’s powers to indefinitely detain immigrants without basic, constitutional due process protections."

The International Association of Chiefs of Police said​, “Penalizing communities by withholding assistance funding to law enforcement agencies and other critical programs is counterproductive to our shared mission of reducing violent crime and keeping our communities safe.”

Jonathan Thompson, CEO of the National Sheriffs’ Association, said, “The vast majority of sheriffs … want to cooperate with ICE, want to cooperate with DHS. But they want to do so in a way that is constitutionaland protects the rights of everyone involved, including victims. Especially victims.”

According to the Fraternal Order of Police, “[W]ithholding needed assistance to law enforcement agencies – which have no policymaking role – also hurts public safety efforts … It is unjust to penalize law enforcement and the citizens they serve because Congress disagrees with their enforcement priorities with respect to our nation’s immigration laws." The group said the House should reject HR 3003’s "punitive approach and work with law enforcement to find a better way to improve public safety in our communities.”

"Kate’s Law similarly would undermine public safety and due process, while further focusing enforcement efforts against immigrants who are not public safety threats," the group added, saying, "This bill would heighten the already significant federal penalties for re-entry afterdeportation; punish asylum seekers; and impose severe new sentences for minor misdemeanors, such as driving without a license. Meanwhile, the bill also limits certain legal challenges against removal orders, limiting the ability of immigrants to challenge their removal."

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.

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