marco rubio immigration sanctuary city
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Senator Marco Rubio speaks at a campaign event in Las Vegas, Nevada October 8, 2015. A former member of the so-called “gang of eight,” Rubio was once a champion of immigration reform. He’s since changed his position, supporting crackdowns on immigrants such as the “Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act” and opposing legal status for the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally. REUTERS/David Becker

The “Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act” (S.2146) is slated for a vote tomorrow in the U.S. Senate. If passed, it would punish municipalities that fail to comply with immigration detainer requests, and and mandatory minimum sentences for certain immigration violations. The bill is part of a backlash against municipal policing policies following the death of Kate Steinle, a San Francisco resident who was allegedly shot by an immigrant in the country illegally. The man, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, was released from a local jail despite a request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain him.

The legislation stalled in July, when the sponsors tried to get attached to a reform of the No Child Left Behind education bill, according to Politico. With poor Republican support and staunch opposition from Democrats, the bill is unlikely to pass, let alone me the requirements to override an inevitable veto from President Barack Obama.

Still, the bill could serve as a platform from which Republicans could project a more active and constructive approach to immigration policy. In recent years, the party has been focused on stopping measures by Democrats, as opposed to proposing fixes of its own.

1) What The Bill Would Do

Short answer: restrict federal grants for low-income housing and policing; shield cops from liability, add mandatory minimum sentences to some immigration violations.

A) Despite the title, S.2146 would not directly stop so-called “sanctuary policies” by invalidating local laws. Instead, it would pressure cities to change laws by threatening to withhold federal grants meant to support low-income housing and public safety efforts. The enforcement section of the “Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act” identifies two such programs.

First, it threatens to cut funding to cities through the Community Development Block Grant. CDBGs go to localities who are trying to create low income housing, address blight, or deal with "urgent needs to community health and safety."

The Community Development program has been cut to one quarter since its apex under Ronald Reagan, but still grants billions of dollars in assistance each year. San Francisco, for example, obtained $16,627,564 in CDBG funds in the 2014 fiscal year.

Second, the “Stop Sanctuary Policies” Act would cut Community Oriented Policing Services. City councils that failed to end pro-immigrant policies would see federal grant money cut in areas like police hiring, counter-meth efforts, and other community safety measures.

B) The bill would shield local officials from liability in connection with complying with detainer requests. The immunity expressly excludes civil rights violations.

C) Lastly, the bill would impose minimum sentencing requirements for certain repeat immigration violators. Those convicted of an immigration violation could face a five year minimum sentence. This is the part referred to as “Kate’s Law.”

2) Who Supports The Bill?

Short answer: anti-immigrant groups, select Republican Senators, Bill O’Reilly.

The “Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act” was developed long before her death. However, the San Francisco incident gave the bill momentum, and the “Kate’s Law” section, receiving endorsements from conservative national pundits such as Bill O’Reilly.

Along with Sen., Toomey, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is sponsoring the bill. However, Vitter has been caught up with in a grueling Gov. race and an emerging sex scandal , so the job of shopping the Stop Sanctuary Cities bill around has fallen on Toomey.

Here’s the Senator making the case on C-SPAN over the weekend.

“This issue isn’t even really about immigration,” Toomey says. “Like many Americans, I support immigration reforms that include opportunities for more immigrants to come to America legally. And I don’t for a minute suggest that most immigrants commit crimes. In fact, the opposite is true. The vast majority of legal immigrants are a great addition to America.”

Republican presidential candidate and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio also supports the bill, citing the death of Kate Steinle and the failure of the 2013 immigration reform bill that he helped write.

“Kate Steinle’s murder tragically exposed the dangers of an inconsistent and ineffectual immigration enforcement policy, which encourages flagrant violations of our laws,” Rubio said in a statement Wednesday, according to Politico. “We need to fix our broken immigration system, but we can’t do it as long as the belief persists that our immigration laws can be violated without any consequences.”

The Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates for more restrictive immigration policies, supports the bill. Dan Stein, the organization’s president, welcomes a passage of the bill even if it is inevitably vetoed.

“If President Obama decides to veto the bill it is up to him to explain to the American people why he is refusing to act against reckless policies that have resulted in needless deaths of innocent citizens," Stein said in a statement.

With immigrants like Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez slipping through the systems’ cracks, supporters of the bill want to find a way to make sure that foreigners with long rap sheets are deported.

In short, supporters of the “Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act” argue that it would improve public safety.

3) Who Opposes The Bill?

Short answer: local cops organizations, pro-immigrant groups, The New York Times.

Yet opponents of the law argue that it would reduce public safety. As Tom Manger, President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association explains, “sanctuary city” policies were created to increase public safety and create trust among immigrant communities.

“We fail if the public fears their police and will not come forward when we need them. Whether we seek to stop child predators, drug dealers, rapists or robbers – we need the full cooperation of victims and witness. Cooperation is not forthcoming from persons who see their police as immigration agents,” Manger said at a Judiciary Committee hearing about the bill in July.

While some visa programs already shield potential victims and witnesses from deportation, it is has over a one-year backlog. Plus, immigrants whose complaints are not prosecuted aren’t eligible. What that means in practice is that, for example, a domestic violence victim can be deported as a consequence of reporting a crime.

“When immigrants come to view their local police and sheriffs with distrust because they fear deportation, it creates conditions that encourage criminals to prey upon victims and witnesses alike.” Manger added in his testimony.

The New York Times Editorial board also opposes the bill, publishing an op-ed that describes efforts to suppress sanctuary cities as “a false fix for a concocted problem,” and contends that the Steinle cases was unreasonably seized to champion the law, citing the following facts that came out in the case following the initial shooting.

Mr. Lopez-Sanchez was a homeless man with drug convictions but no record of violent crime; the bullet he fired was found to have ricocheted off the pier, suggesting that he had not targeted anyone. The suggestion that it was a horrific accident could well be true. What is clearly false is the claim that he moved to San Francisco to take advantage of its sanctuary policies. He was sent there by federal officials to answer an old, minor drug charge, then released.

Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez has called the bill the “Donald Trump Act.”

Democratic California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein criticized San Francisco officials in the wake of the Steinle shooting, but have not endorsed the Republican bill.

Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake says he won’t say yes to the bill unless the mandatory minimums are dropped.

4) What Are Sanctuary Cities? Immigration Detainers? Etc.

We wrote another explainer article about sanctuary cities back in July.


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