Sanctuary cities should not set immigrations law

Published 7:00 am Thursday, October 29, 2015

The term “sanctuary city” is used to describe a municipality that chooses not to cooperate in the enforcement of the nation’s immigration law. Astonishingly, there are some 340 of these jurisdictions in America today.
Earlier this year, sanctuary cities earned national attention after the shooting death of 32-year-old Kate Steinle in San Francisco. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico with a criminal record and multiple deportations, has been charged with her murder.
Under San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy, local authorities did not notify federal immigration officials when they released Lopez-Sanchez from custody a few months before the shooting. The incident reignited the immigration debate not only on the presidential campaign trail but also in the halls of Congress.
Closing Loopholes in Enforcement
Although the vast majority of illegal immigrants are not violent criminals, this tragic example illustrates the problem when sanctuary cities disregard the law of the land. Sadly, it is not an isolated incident. In refusing to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and allowing illegal immigrants to find refuge, these municipalities are rewriting federal immigration law as they see fit. Americans are right to demand greater accountability and better law enforcement in our communities. States and localities that do not like the current law should pursue changes through the proper channels rather than undermining federal statute.
I have consistently supported legislation to crack down on sanctuary cities and close these loopholes in federal immigration law. On October 20, I voted in favor of debating a sanctuary cities bill introduced by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.). Known as the “Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act,” the legislation would have withheld federal funding and grants from sanctuary localities, instead redirecting it to cities, states, and counties that comply with immigration law.
It would have also increased the maximum prison sentence for those who reenter the country illegally. The House of Representatives has already passed a similar bill, and law enforcement groups and organizations like The Remembrance Project and America First Latinos have expressed support. The Senate bill, however, was filibustered by Democrats.
In 2013, I sponsored a similar effort against sanctuary cities with an amendment to the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.” My amendment would have denied State Criminal Alien Assistance Program funds and law enforcement grants to sanctuary cities.
It also would have encouraged information-sharing between law enforcement officials and promoted state access to federal technology that could help identify immigrants who are inadmissible or deportable. I voted against the final bill because it did not include this amendment and lacked significant enforcement and border security provisions.
Fixing a Broken System
Lawmakers have a responsibility to protect American families and ensure that the nation’s laws are upheld. Accordingly, we should not send taxpayer dollars to cities, counties, states, and other localities that flout the law.
Our immigration system is broken, and proper law enforcement across the country should be part of the solution.
A bill to remove federal funding from sanctuary jurisdictions would have initiated urgently needed reforms. Sanctuary policies encourage illegal entry and ultimately undermine good-faith efforts to remedy our country’s immigration laws.

By Senator Roger Wicker

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