House Bill Would Cut Off Federal Funds For Sanctuary Cities

Jul 23, 2015
Originally published on July 23, 2015 2:08 pm
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There's been a name given to cities that don't cooperate with the federal government when it comes to enforcing immigration laws. They're called sanctuary cities. And now there's a debate in Congress over whether and how these cities should be punished. Here's NPR's Juana Summers.

JUANA SUMMERS, BYLINE: Lawmakers in both chambers say they were moved by the killing of a San Francisco woman earlier this month. Police say Kate Steinle was shot by a man that illegally re-entered the United States after multiple deportations. Today House lawmakers will vote on a bill that would block some federal grants from jurisdictions that actively try to block enforcement of immigration law. Texas Congressman Pete Sessions.

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PETE SESSIONS: The bill is based upon simple ideas. Cities should not expect to receive related federal grants if they choose to ignore federal immigration law.

SUMMERS: Most Democrats forcefully opposed the measure and say that Republicans, including presidential candidate Donald Trump, are politicizing Steinle's death. California congressman Xavier Becerra represents a Southern California district.

XAVIER BECERRA: The House bill, the Donald Trump Act, as we call it, does nothing to do with what happened unfortunately to this woman who was killed. It would do nothing about that. What it would do, it would deny San Francisco and a lot of other cities and counties throughout America the funding they use to hire police officers to keep all of us safe.

SUMMERS: Republicans, though, see this as a key issue and say they want to stop what happened in San Francisco from happening again. California Republican Kevin McCarthy, a member of the House leadership, said the bill moving through the House now was just the first bite of the apple. A handful of Republican senators, including Ted Cruz of Texas, also a presidential candidate, have their own legislation that would crack down on sanctuary cities. On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Jim Steinle, whose daughter's murder has re-energized the political fight over sanctuary cities. Steinle acknowledged that the country's immigration laws are complex but said he wants undocumented immigrants with felony records off the streets for good.

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JIM STEINLE: The U.S. has suffered a self-inflicted wound in the murder of our daughter by the hand of a person that should've never been on the streets of this country.

SUMMERS: Republican Congressman Bradley Byrne of Alabama supports the legislation. He says it's Congress's responsibility to protect citizens from these crimes.

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BRADLEY BYRNE: And this is not an isolated incident unfortunately. If it's not an isolated incident, it's going to happen again until somebody stops it.

SUMMERS: Jim Steinle will make his case for action to House lawmakers later today. Juana Summers, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.