The U.S. House of Representatives plans to take up a bill this week that would block funding for so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to hand over illegal immigrants to federal authorities for deportation proceedings.
At least 276 local jurisdictions in 43 states and the District of Columbia have adopted sanctuary policies and refuse to comply with some or all deportation requests from federal authorities, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as HNGN reported.
Over an eight-month period in 2014, more than 8,000 illegal immigrants were released from local jails in these sanctuary cities even though federal immigration authorities had requested they be turned over for deportation proceedings. Of these released immigrants, 1,867 went on to re-offend and were later re-arrested 4,298 times for various crimes during the eight-month period, accumulating 7,491 new charges.
What finally prompted lawmakers to crack down on sanctuary cities was an alleged murder committed in San Francisco earlier this month by an illegal immigrant with a criminal record and multiple deportations, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez. San Francisco authorities had released the man from jail despite a request from federal immigration authorities to keep him in custody, and he went on to shoot 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle on a San Francisco pier.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., introduced the "Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act" the week after Steinle's death. The legislation would block certain federal grants to cities that do not uphold federal immigration requests, according to The Associated Press. A similar proposal has also been advanced in the Senate.
On Monday, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities sent a letter to lawmakers expressing their opposition to the bill.
"We believe that decisions related to how law enforcement agencies prioritize their resources, direct their workforce and define the duties of their employees must reside with local government leadership," the letter reads. "This includes defining the role of local police officers in the context of enforcing federal immigration laws."
A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat who represents San Francisco, told CNN that she plans to oppose the measure.
Steinle's father testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, urging lawmakers to consider passing laws to crack down on sanctuary-cities in order to more effectively get criminal aliens off the streets, reported CBS News.
"Our family realized the complexity of immigration laws, however we feel strongly that some legislation should be discussed, enacted or changed to take these undocumented immigrants felons off our streets for good," Jim Steinle said at the hearing Tuesday. "We'd be proud to see Kate's name associated with some of this new legislation. We feel if Kate's law saves one daughter, one son, a mother, a father, Kate's death won't be in vain."