Democrats are trying to tie a controversial immigration bill to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
On Thursday, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill that partially cuts off federal funding to “sanctuary cities,” or municipalities that do not comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement orders to detain illegal immigrants beyond their scheduled release date if they are picked up for a low-level crime.
The bill was drafted and passed as a direct response to the death of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle, who was allegedly killed by an immigrant, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, living in the US without permission. Lopez-Sanchez had been previously deported after committing several drug-related crimes. The vote passed with the support of only six House Democrats. Five House Republicans voted against it.
The House bill comes weeks after Trump doubled down — and went even further — on his comments accusing the Mexican government of sending “rapists” and drug-dealers across the border. He also began advocating loudly for new laws to prevent violent crimes committed by immigrants living in the US without legal status.
The real-estate mogul has been outspoken on immigration and border security issues, bringing out family members of victims killed by immigrants living in the US illegally at events.
Now, Democratic members of the House are trying to tie Trump’s controversial comments to the House bill, labelling it “The Donald Trump Act.” They also tied it to Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), perhaps the loudest anti-reform voice in the House.
“House Republicans are rushing the Donald Trump Act to the floor this week — a wildly partisan, misguided bill that second-guesses the decisions of police chiefs around the country about how best to ensure public safety,” Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-California) office said in a statement. “This bill isn’t intended to solve the problem — but rather to demonize immigrants and appease the angry, anti-immigrant, Donald Trump-Steve King wing of the Republican Party.”
“We can do all the politicking we want. We can do the so-called ‘Donald Trump Act,’ which simply denies the cities and towns their dollars to hire police officers while attacking immigrant communities,” Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-California) added Wednesday, according to The Hill. “Or we can actually do things that improve the lives of Americans.”
The media coverage around Steinle’s death has added a new wrinkle in the already contentious immigration debate.
Opponents of sanctuary-city policies say that they put Americans at risk by releasing criminals who should not be in the country back onto the street.
“The recent shooting of a young woman in California highlights a serious problem in our immigration enforcement system. Because while terrible people do terrible things, this tragedy was preventable,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement on Thursday.
“And the fact is, some cities decide to ignore our laws, and not only is that wrong, but it’s clearly dangerous as well. The House is acting today to put state and local officials on notice that we’ll no longer allow them to decide how and when to enforce our nation’s laws. And I call upon the Obama administration to follow suit, to stop covering up for these ‘sanctuary cities,’ and enforce the laws that are there to protect the American people.”
But pro-immigrant groups and civil-rights advocates argue that the bill that Republicans passed — beyond potentially being unconstitutional — is unpopular with law enforcement, who feel that making local police surrogates for immigration enforcement officials can be harmful to community safety.
Prominent law enforcement groups like the Major Cities Police Chiefs group — as well as President Barack Obama’s 21st Century Policing report — have found that decoupling policing and immigration enforcement is key to improving community policing.
“At its core, [community policing] ensures that you have beat cops on the streets making relationships with the community, and that the community trusts that local police are there for their protection and that it’s safe to have interactions with local police without risking the deportation of one’s self or a family member,” Melissa Keaney, a staff attorney at the immigration-reform-friendly National Immigration Law Center, told Business Insider last week. “When local police become involved in immigration enforcement, the community loses trust.”
House Republicans and Trump aren’t the only ones trying to weigh in on sanctuary cities.
This month, both Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) introduced their own bills that would cut federal funding to cities that do not comply with ICE detainer requests.
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