The House of Representatives approved H.R.3009, Rep. Duncan Hunter's (R-Calif.) sanctuary cities bill, last Thursday, hopefully starting a debate over the Obama Administration's efforts to severely weaken interior enforcement.
Hunter's bill would block SCAAP funding (relatively small reimbursements for jailing illegal aliens) from jurisdictions that refuse to communicate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or comply with detainer requests. It would also authorize the Department of Justice (DOJ) to block grants for local law enforcement.
Earlier this year, the House approved Rep. Steve King's (R-Iowa) sanctuary cities amendment to the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Act that would have blocked SCAAP funding. But it also required DOJ to block local law enforcement grants. So the Hunter legislation is a step back from policy that the House has already approved this year.
Furthermore, the Hunter bill fails to address ICE's own sanctuary policies that have led to the release of more than 70,000 criminal aliens onto the streets. And as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) pointed out last Tuesday during his questioning of ICE Director Sarah Saldana, that number only represents the release of criminal aliens that the agency has put into deportation proceedings. There were another 68,000 criminal aliens released in 2013 alone that ICE declined to even put into deportation hearings.
In advance of the House vote, NumbersUSA told House Members and the media that the Hunter bill was an inadequate response to the recent shooting of Kate Steinle in San Francisco.
Following the murder of Kate Steinle, there has been unprecedented public outrage over sanctuary policies, which are expressly designed to prevent the enforcement of immigration laws. Congress has received a clear mandate from the American people that it is finally time to stop the release of criminal aliens onto our streets. NumbersUSA commends all the members of Congress who responded to that call with targeted legislation to address certain parts of the criminal alien crisis. The Hunter sanctuary bill (H.R. 3009) is one such piece of targeted legislation. As the sole legislative response of Congress to this criminal alien crisis, however, H.R. 3009 is wholly inadequate.
Defunding sanctuary jurisdictions certainly should be part of the legislative effort to prevent more Americans from being victimized by criminal aliens, but withholding small, discrete Federal grants is not going to stop state, local, or Federal entities from releasing criminal aliens into our communities. Moreover, a well-thought-out legislative response should follow regular order and come from the committee of jurisdiction: the Judiciary Committee. Sadly, House leadership has decided to bypass the committee process and ignore the time and work the members of the Judiciary Committee put into marking up and passing the Davis-Oliver Act (H.R. 1148). The Davis-Oliver Act, introduced by Chairman Gowdy, would not only prevent sanctuary jurisdictions from ignoring ICE detainers and releasing criminal aliens, it would also immunize state and local law enforcement officers who protect our communities by honoring detainers. Equally important, it would significantly curtail ICE's practice of releasing tens of thousands of criminal aliens each year. Had this bill been enacted in time, Kate Steinle, Grant Ronnebeck, Josh Wilkerson, Jamiel Shaw, Jr., and thousands of others might be alive today. That is the kind of response that the American people expect from their elected representatives.
Our criticism of the weak response was widely reported in the media.
While the Hunter bill passed easily, 241-to-179, some Members who supported the legislation showed their agreement with our position, including House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).
Representative Hunter's bill is an important first step, but there is much more we will need to do to rebuild immigration enforcement in the United
States. ... Representative Gowdy, chairman of the Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee, has offered us a way forward to ensure enforcement of our immigration laws. ... Today, we are making an important down payment on protecting our constituents, and I appreciate the Majority Leader's commitment to me that we will take additional action to ensure compliance with our immigration laws in the future.
-- Rep. Goodlatte
We believe that the barrage of phone calls and faxes from NumbersUSA activists over the last several weeks is one reason House Leaders made the promise for more action.
Our hope is that House Leadership's promise to Rep. Goodlatte and others comes to fruition, but it'll be our job over the August recess to ensure that House Leaders actually keep their word.
Lat week's vote broke mostly along party lines, but five Democrats did side with the Republicans and the rule of law: Reps. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Ami Bera of California, William Keating of Massachusetts, Jim Cooper of Tennessee, and Henry Cuellar of Texas.
Interestingly, Nine Republicans voted for the Hunter bill after opposing King's amendment to the CJS appropriations bill. One could speculate that these pro-amnesty Republicans changed their vote for at least one of two reasons, both of which were pointed out in our letter to Congress: 1) the Hunter bill was indeed weaker than the King amendment and 2) the American people have given Congress a clear mandate to strengthen interior enforcement.
How weak has interior enforcement gotten under the Obama Administration? A new study released yesterday by the Migration Policy Institute concluded that 87% of illegal aliens living in the United States will be safe from federal immigration agents.
The House will break for the month-long August recess at the end of this week. We have our work cut out for ourselves over that month. We'll need to keep the pressure on Congress to pass meaningful legislation that will end the Obama Administration's and nearly 300 sanctuary jurisdictions' utter disregard for the rule of law and insistence to protect criminal illegal aliens over the public safety of Americans.
CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Director of Content & Activism for NumbersUSA
Updated: Tue, Aug 11th 2015 @ 10:10am EDT