Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who is expected to run the House Judiciary Committee, has spoken out against these cities, claiming they violate a 1996 law that expanded the government’s reach on illegal immigration. After the Justice Department decided to sue Arizona for taking on immigration enforcement with SB 1070, conservatives argued there should be a similar crackdown on sanctuary cities.
“For the Justice Department to suggest that they won’t take action against those who passively violate the law–who fail to comply with the law–is absurd,” Smith, the chief author of the 1996 immigration law, told The Washington Times in July. “Will they ignore individuals who fail to pay taxes? Will they ignore banking laws that require disclosure of transactions over $10,000? Of course not.”
The 1996 law, the Immigration Control and Financial Responsibility Act, requires local governments to cooperate with immigration enforcement authorities. Most lawmakers in sanctuary cities–San Francisco being one notable exception–deny that the label applies to their city’s policies because they do not prevent immigration authorities from policing immigration in their areas. They claim their policies are meant to enhance public safety by making undocumented immigrants feel comfortable about reporting crime to the police or seeking help from health officials.
Still, it’s possible Smith will attempt a bill explicitly banning sanctuary-style policies. Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the pro-enforcement Federation for American Immigration Reform, told TWI that his organization hopes to see the Republicans in the House take a tough stand against sanctuary policies.
GOP House members might also try to pass legislation specifically giving states the right to crack down on immigration, said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates stricter enforcement. “They might propose a bill to specifically assert states’ authority to participate in immigration enforcement,” he said. “I could see that passing the House relatively easily.”
That type of law, though, is far less likely to gain support from Democrats. Krikorian said he was almost certain such a bill would be vetoed by Obama, if it were able to get past Senate at all.