Senate Bill Against Sanctuary Cities Voted Down

This week on October, 20 2015, in a 54 to 45 vote, the Senate blocked S. 2146, the Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act, from advancing to the Senate floor.  The bill required a super majority of 60 votes to move forward.   If passed, the bill would have limited grants to cities that do not comply with detainers issued by DHS and increase penalties for individual who illegally reenter the United States.  Furthermore, funding would have been denied to those cities deemed “sanctuary jurisdictions” where local law enforcement, among other things, did not check immigration status upon arrest.  I discussed the bill in greater detail in a previous blog.

Senator David Vitter, R-La., introduced the legislation, which included a provision known as Kate’s Law, named after 32-year-old Kate Steinle, who was fatally shot by an undocumented person in San Francisco on July 1. The bill would have imposed a mandatory minimum jail sentence of five years for undocumented persons who are convicted of re-entering the United States after being convicted of an aggravated felony or have three strikes for trying to enter the country illegally.

Before the vote, Senator Vitter wrote: “Sanctuary cities and the associated violent crimes by illegal immigrants are reaching a critical point, and we cannot wait any longer to take action to protect Americans here at home.”

Opponents of the Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act questioned the taxpayer cost of implementing mandatory minimums at a time when Congress is working to reform the criminal justice system.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) urged the Senate to vote no on the motion to proceed in a statement authored by the Director of Advocacy for the AILA, Greg Chen.  According to Chen, “[c]ontrary to its stated purpose, this bill will not make communities safer. In fact, it will undermine public safety by penalizing and denying funding to states and local law enforcement agencies that are working to build trust within their communities.” AILA statement.

The White House also opposed the bill, providing in a strong written statement: “The Administration strongly opposes S. 2146. This bill fails to offer comprehensive reforms needed to fix the Nation’s broken immigration laws and undermines current Administration efforts to remove the most dangerous convicted criminals and to work collaboratively with State and local law enforcement agencies.”

Had the bill passed  the President was prepared to veto the bill.

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