The House of Representatives voted Thursday to block funding for jurisdictions that interfere with federal immigration law, turning up the pressure on so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions.
It is one of two immigration-related measures up for debate on Thursday, along with a bill that passed to increase penalties for illegal immigrants who return to the United States after previous deportations. The vote was 228-191, with three Democrats and seven Republicans voting against their party positions.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the sponsor of both bills, said during floor debate that states and local governments that refuse to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities endanger communities — including minority communities.
“I would point out that many, many of the victims of these crimes are Hispanics, African-Americans, and others,” he said.
The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act would codify those efforts into law and expand the number of affected grant programs. The bill would restrict certain grants from the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to jurisdictions that prohibit employees from cooperating with ICE officers. Affected grants include the “Cops on the Beat” program, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program and other grants that are substantially related to law enforcement, terrorism, national security, immigration or naturalization.
“These are 100 percent preventable if these people would not have been here.”
The bill also would make clear that ICE requests to hold prisoners indicate that federal authorities have probable cause. That attempts to address concerns cited by some jurisdictions that anything short of a judicial warrant is insufficient to detain illegal immigrants.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said at a news conference Thursday that he cannot understand why local authorities would resist ICE.
“In doing so, they prioritize criminals over public and law enforcement officer safety,” he said.
Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) cited a 2011 report by the Government Accountability Office indicating that illegal immigrants incarcerated in prisons and jails had committed 25,000 homicides, 69,000 sexual offenses, 14,000 kidnappings, 42,000 robberies, and 213,000 assaults.
“These are 100 percent preventable if these people would not have been here,” he said on the floor.
Some Democratic opponents cast the debate in hyperbolic terms. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), one of the fiercest advocates for amnesty in Congress, said only one in 10 Latinos in America came illegally.
“But this policy is about going after all of us, whether we are citizens of the United States or not,” he said.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said President Donald Trump could not be trusted with increased authority to withhold funds to local jurisdictions. She said that applies to other laws as well.
“I will vote for nothing until he steps down,” she said.
Other Democrats argued that the law actually would make communities less safe by discouraging cooperation by immigrants in criminal investigations and by reducing resources to local law enforcement officers.
“It would punish our communities more than it would punish the immigrants,” Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) said.
Although immigration-enforcement legislation has died in the Senate in the past, some experts said they think it might have a chance to withstand a filibuster this year.
“If it doesn’t pass or it doesn’t get a vote in the Senate, that’s really good information for Americans to have,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies.