What is a Sanctuary City?
A "sanctuary city" is one with policies to shelter immigrants who are in the United States illegally. These practices can be law (de jure) or they can be by practice (de facto). Generally, these cities do not allow municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about an individual’s immigration status.
As the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained, “one of the characteristic elements of our broken immigration system is the significant challenges that the federal government and federal law enforcement officials have had in enforcing the law by working closely with local law enforcement officials."
When comprehensive immigration reform efforts failed in Congress two years ago, President Obama scrapped the Secure Communities Program, which previously codified the relationship between the federal government and local law enforcement that caused a number of cities to declare themselves sanctuary cities.
The Secure Communities Program was then replaced by the Priority Enforcement Program, which focuses on convicted criminals and others who pose a danger to public safety. The Program enables the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to work with state and local law enforcement to take custody of individuals who pose a danger before those individuals are released into our communities.
Sanctuary Cities Legislation in the 114th Congress
Sanctuary cities legislation in the 114th Congress surfaced following the killing of Kathryn Steinle, who was fatally shot on July 1, 2015 in San Fransisco by a Mexican national with a criminal record who had not been deported three months earlier due to San Francisco's sanctuary city policy.
Attempts to restrict sanctuary cities include:
Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act (S. 3100)
Sponsor: Sen. Pat Toomey [R, PA]
THe bill would have blocked federal funding for “sanctuary cities,” cities or counties that bar local enforcement from complying with federal immigration authorities. This July, the bill failed to reach cloture, a procedural hurdle that ends debate and puts bill to floor vote, by vote of 53-44.
Kate’s Law (S. 2193)
Sponsor: Sen. Ted Cruz [R, TX]
The bill would have increased the maximum penalty for illegal re-entry into the country from two to five years, as well as imposing a maximum 10-year sentence on an individual who has been removed from the country 3 times. This bill also failed to reach cloture in July.
Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act (S. 2146)
Sponsor: Sen. David Vitter [R, LA]
The bill would withhold certain federal funding from sanctuary states or cities that do not comply with the DHS issued detainer requests for illegal aliens. This bill failed to invoke cloture in 2015 by a vote of 54-45.