Congress Takes Another Look at Sanctuary Cities

By Laura Spadanuta, Assistant Editor

U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) introduced an amendment on Tuesday to the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriation Bill that attempted to put an end to sanctuary cities. The amendment was defeated in a 52-42 vote.

Upon defeat, Vitter said:

“Once again, we are failing to acknowledge what the American people made very clear during this summer’s immigration debate – we must get serious about securing our borders and fight the epidemic of illegal immigration.  One key way to do that would have been to require our cities to actually enforce our immigration laws currently on the books to the fullest extent."

The amendment would have withheld funding from the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant program to sanctuary cities.  Sanctuary city is the term often applied to cities that prohibit their employees and law enforcement officials from inquiring about immigration status. Although it is illegal for cities to prohibit employees from sharing information on illegal immigrants with the government, these sanctuary city laws do not appear to violate the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 because they only apply to asking about the status, not telling.

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) proposed an amendment to the immigration bill earlier this year that would have required law enforcement to inquire about immigration status when dealing with a suspected illegal immigrant. That amendment was defeated in May by one vote.

For more on the legal issues surrounding sanctuary cities, please see this article, "Are Cities Sapping Immigration Laws?" from September's issue of Security Management.


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