A group of House Republicans has introduced legislation designed to “send a loud and clear message” to a growing number of “sanctuary cities” across the country, saying those who offer safe harbor to illegal aliens will not be tolerated.
The bill, written by Rep Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida, would make illegal immigration a felony and would clarify that state and local law enforcement has existing authority to investigate, identify, apprehend, arrest, detain and transfer to federal authorities any illegal alien apprehended in the course of routine duties.
Known as the Accountability in Enforcing Immigration Laws Act of 2007, it also would require U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to take illegal aliens into custody or pay state and local governments the per-diem rate to detain them until they are removed.
“It’s the counties and cities that get hit hardest by illegal immigration,” said Rep. Brian P. Bilbray of California, chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus and a co-sponsor of the bill. He said in San Diego County alone, taxpayers are footing a $101 million a year bill for the health care and public safety costs of illegal immigration.
“During a time when our borders are being used as gateways for terrorists, drug cartels and human smuggling . . . there is no justification for knowingly providing illegal immigrants with sanctuary from detection, arrest and prosecution,” he said.
Mrs. Brown-Waite described sanctuary cities as those with ordinances that prevent cooperation between local police and federal immigration authorities. She said some police departments are prohibited from checking a person’s immigration status in the course of routine duties.
By failing to notify immigration officials, she said these “wrongheaded policies” ensure that illegal aliens who have been ordered deported or might be on terrorist watch lists will remain at large in the community. “When cities proclaim they will not check immigration status, they essentially become a safe haven for not only out-of-status immigrants, but criminal aliens who have often committed violent atrocities in our country,” she said.
The bill also would withhold 25 percent of non-emergency Homeland Security funding for sanctuary cities and would authorize $1 billion for a federal program that provides funding to states and localities for jailing criminal aliens.