In-Depth: Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to prohibit a sanctuary jurisdiction form receiving federal financial assistance and protect local law enforcement officers within sanctuary cities who cooperate with the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS):
“Sanctuary jurisdictions that harbor criminal illegal aliens are a clear violation of federal law and place citizens of their communities in danger. As I have stated on many occasions, we are a nation of laws – we cannot make exceptions based on feelings and emotion. If these cities choose to break federal law, they should not be rewarded with funding.”
America’s Voice, a liberal immigration reform group, argues that “scary things can happen when immigrants become afraid of the police.” It cites the example of Houston, where the police chief noted that the number of Hispanics reporting rape had decreased 42.8% from 2016 to 2017 and the number reporting other violent crimes had dropped 13%, despite crimes reported by non-Hispanics increasing over the same period (Houston has resisted a Texas law precluding it from operating as a sanctuary city). Similarly, in March 2017, the Los Angeles Police Department reported decreased sexual assault reports due to “a climate of fear in immigrant communities” and NPR reported that fear of deportation had caused four women to drop domestic abuse cases in Denver (Los Angeles and Denver are both sanctuary cities). With this in mind, many law enforcement officers, including the Fraternal Order of Police, a membership organization that endorsed Donald Trump in the 2016 election, have endorsed backing off on the idea of punishing cities or their police departments for immigrant-friendly sanctuary policies.
In its 2012 decision in the Obamacare case National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) v. Sebelius, the Supreme Court found that Congress couldn’t constitutionally take away all Medicaid funding from states if they didn’t expand Medicaid coverage. In its ruling, the Court wrote, “Permitting the Federal Government to force the States to implement a federal program would threaten the political accountability key to our federal system.” Arguably, the same principle may apply in this case.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a crackdown on sanctuary cities a centerpiece of his time at the Justice Dept., where he said sanctuary cities are safe harbors for violent international cartels. In a 2017 speech, Sessions said sanctuary cities put “innocent life, including the lives of countless law-abiding immigrants, in danger.”
This bill has one cosponsor in the 116th Congress, Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX). In the 115th Congress, it was sponsored by Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) with five Republican cosponsors’ support and didn’t receive a committee vote.
Of Note: The National Conference of State Legislatures notes that sanctuary policy has recently emerged as a point of tension between federal, state and local authorities. As a form of opposition to Trump administration policies on immigration, some jurisdictions have limited their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement agents in order to protect low-priority immigrants from deportation while still turning over those who have committed serious crimes.
President Trump threatened to withhold funds from sanctuary cities in a 2017 executive order. However, in a 2-1 decision in August 2018, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the order was unconstitutional; but it also ruled that a lower court went too far in blocking the order nationwide. Writing for the majority, Chief Judge Sidney Thomas wrote, “Absent congressional authorization, the administration may not redistribute or withhold properly appropriated funds in order to effectuate its own policy goals.”
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Radu Bighian)