The War on Sanctuary Cities

On Oct. 20, the Senate voted to block a bill that would remove protections from illegal immigrants in cities where local police do not actively enforce immigration laws.

Senator David Vitter (R-LA) penned the “Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act” (S. 2146), gaining support varied support. The bill aims to remove millions of dollars in funding from sanctuary cities for not complying with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests. Sanctuary cities generally restrict local law enforcement from complying with federal immigration laws.

The term “sanctuary city” came about in the 1980s when thousands of Central American refugees came to the U.S. to escape civil wars in their respective home countries, and were denied asylum upon their arrival. Several different religious institutions came together in the Sanctuary Movement to help protect refugees from deportation.

Some of the funding in question directly impacts programs designed to strengthen communities, such as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). While sanctuary cities do not technically shield individuals from immigration authorities, they do improve community safety by empowering illegal immigrants to work with police without fear of deportation.

A number of Republicans, including presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, advocated for passing S. 2146, arguing that undocumented immigrants pose a safety risk for American citizens and communities.

Our country desperately needs comprehensive immigration reform that goes beyond partial fixes like S. 2146. While enough senators disagree with the bill to block it, they continue to ignore the underlying issue.

We have learned about the positive impact that H1-B visa holders bring to the U.S. economy, and reports show that these sanctuary cities are safer than believed by supporters of the bill. The only way to fully address the issues is through a more comprehensive approach to immigration reform.

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