Democrats in Congress are jumping on an opportunity to tie Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump to a bill that Republicans had hoped to push through Congress.
Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked a vote on a bill to cut off federal funds to so-called “sanctuary cities.”
Those municipalities do not comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement orders to hold immigrants living in the US illegally beyond their scheduled release date if they are picked up for a low-level crimes.
The bill is a response to the high-profile killing of a woman in San Francisco earlier this year, allegedly at the hands of an immigrant living in the US illegally who had recently been released from prison.
Trump has frequently raised the issue of sanctuary cities on the campaign trail. And he has cited the general threat of crimes committed by immigrants living in the US without permission as a reason to deport those approximately 11 million immigrants — and to force Mexico to fund a border wall along the US-Mexico border.
“This senseless and totally preventable act of violence committed by an illegal immigrant is yet another example of why we must secure our border immediately,” Trump said earlier this year. “This is an absolutely disgraceful situation, and I am the only one that can fix it. Nobody else has the guts to even talk about it. That won’t happen if I become president.”
Democrats, who claim that sanctuary cities policies benefit community policing, wasted no time on Tuesday linking Trump to the proposed legislation.
“This vile legislation might as well be called the Donald Trump Act, like the disgusting outrageous language championed by Donald Trump,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said on the Senate floor. “Republicans are not really proposing this bill to solve any problems within our immigration system. This Donald Trump Act was designed to demonize immigrants and spread the myth that they are criminals and threats to the public.”
This isn’t the first time that Democrats have attempted to tie Trump to immigration legislation. Earlier this year, Democrats also stamped the Trump brand on a similar bill in the House of Representatives aimed at defunding sanctuary cities.
“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,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said then, referencing Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a vocal border security hawk.
Trump’s call to defund sanctuary cities has become wrapped up in the debate over legislation to defund sanctuary cities.
During a Senate hearing in July, for example, the mother of a man murdered by an immigrant living in the US illegally praised Trump for bringing attention to the issue.
“[T]hank you to Mr. Trump for getting a message out about the nation in two minutes that … families like my own have been trying to say for five to six years,” said the mother, Laura Wilkerson.
“It feels good to be heard. Whether you love him or whether you don’t, I felt heard,” she added.
On Tuesday, Democrats were also keen to link Trump’s opposition to sanctuary cities to another Republican presidential candidate: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), a co-sponsor of the bill.
“This bill is — so far, anyway — the ultimate alignment of Marco Rubio’s campaign platform with Donald Trump’s immigration policy,” Pablo Manriquez, the Democratic National Committee’s Hispanic media director, told Business Insider.
On Tuesday, the DNC also held a press call featuring several congressmen that was dedicated to slamming Rubio’s support for the law, as well as the senator’s poor Senate attendance record. For his part, Rubio defended his support of the bill by saying the San Francisco murder of Kate Steinle “exposed the dangers of an inconsistent and ineffectual immigration enforcement policy, which encourages flagrant violations of our laws.”
Despite Trump’s high-profile comments about sanctuary cities, he and Rubio are hardly the only 2016 Republican candidates who have moved to address the issue.
Sens. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) both introduced legislation earlier this year that would partially cut funding to cities that do not comply with ICE detainer requests, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) said earlier this year that mayors of cities that do not honour ICE requests should be arrested.
Tuesday’s bill has little to no chance of becoming law. Before Senate Democrats blocked its passage on Tuesday, the White House threatened to veto the legislation if it made its way to President Barack Obama’s desk.
But some conservatives have floated a hardball strategy that would attach the sanctuary-city funding to a must-pass piece of legislation, potentially raising the specter of a showdown that could lead to a government shutdown.
“If a party-line vote blocks it, then the next step is not simply to have a vote. The next step is to attach this legislation to must-pass legislation and to actually fix the problem,” Cruz said earlier Tuesday, according to The Hill.
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