Democrats in the Senate yesterday blocked legislation designed to crack down on the so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ that protect undocumented immigrants from federal immigration authorities, claiming the bill was anti-immigration. The bill from Louisiana senator David Vitter was unable to gather the 60 votes needed to pass into law.
Vitter was moved to introduce the bill, which would have punished jurisdictions that failed to cooperate with requests by the federal government or failed to share immigration data by preventing access to certain funds and grants, by the murder of San Francisco woman Kathryn Steinle. A five-time deported undocumented criminal immigrant in San Francisco murdered Steinle back in July.
Vitter says Americans need to be protected in their own cities by the enforcement of existing immigration laws instead of rewarding cities that fail to do so. Advocates claimed that federal immigration requests known as ‘detainers’ often target innocent immigrants unfairly and only negatively impact on relations between the community and local law enforcement. The White House had already threatened to veto the sanctuary cities bill, claiming that it would upset relations between local and federal officials and jeopardize important law enforcement money.
The Obama administration has been critical of cities such as San Francisco for failing to fully cooperate with immigration authorities, however, it has attempted to find a compromise by creating a system that allows cities to notify federal authorities when a serious criminal is about to be released.