Senate Democrats Block Bill to Strip Federal Funds From ‘Sanctuary Cities’

Erin Kelly, USA Today, October 20, 2015

Senate Democrats blocked a bill Tuesday that would have punished “sanctuary cities” that protect undocumented immigrants from being turned over to federal agents to face deportation.

Senators voted 54-45 to advance the legislation, falling six votes short of the 60 needed.

The bill offered by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., would have cut off law enforcement grants–including money to hire police officers–to more than 300 cities, counties and states with sanctuary policies. The legislation also would have stripped them of community development block grants, which are used to provide housing to low-income and moderate-income families and to help communities recover from natural disasters.

Republicans urged action in the wake of the July 1 murder of 32-year-old Kate Steinle, who was shot to death while walking on a San Francisco Pier with her father. Her alleged killer, Francisco Sanchez, a 45-year-old Mexican national, had been deported five times for multiple felonies and was released from a San Francisco County Jail last spring without being turned over to federal immigration authorities.

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If Sanchez had been turned over to federal agents as requested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Steinle would still be alive, Vitter said.

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Police in San Francisco and other cities with large immigrant populations say they cannot convince residents to trust them if police are viewed as immigration agents who will help deport them if they come forward to report crimes.

The White House appeared to agree with that concern in a statement Tuesday threatening a veto of the Senate bill.

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The White House had also issued a veto threat against a similar bill passed by the House in July.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a presidential candidate and co-sponsor of Vitter’s bill, acknowledged before the vote that the bill was likely to fail but said it would put Democrats on the record for voters to see. He urged Republican Senate leaders to try again later by attaching the bill to some piece of must-pass legislation.

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