On Tuesday, October 20, 2015, the United States Senate considered Senator David Vitter’s (R-LA) “Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act” (S. 2146). The Senate rejected the motion to proceed on the bill. The vote would have required 60 “Yea” votes to begin debate; the motion failed 54-45.
So-called “sanctuary cities” are those cities that limit coordination between state and local police and federal immigration authorities. The bill would have punished “sanctuary cities” by taking away millions of dollars in federal funding for any city that did not comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) detainer requests or that prohibited the collection of immigration information. The bill also would have added five-year mandatory minimum sentences for illegal reentry to the United States.
Policies limiting entanglement between local police and ICE officials – like those policies implemented by “sanctuary cities” – have a positive impact on the community by increasing communication and trust between the police and residents without imposing any restrictions on ICE’s ability to enforce immigration laws. The policies also ensure that local police do not violate the law or the Constitution by illegally detaining a person without the authority to do so.
With respect to the proposed mandatory minimum sentences, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, if the mandatory minimum sentences had become law, the federal prison population would increase by approximately 57,000 individuals. According to Families Against Mandatory Minimums, this increase could cost taxpayers over $2 billion per year.
Rather than punish “sanctuary cities” for their policies, the federal government should focus on comprehensive immigration reform, so that immigration laws can be enforced in a manner that safeguards due process.
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