Bob Goodlatte: House takes first step to stop sanctuary cities

goodlattefourinIt could have been any one of our children. That’s the unsettling realization that Jim Steinle’s testimony before a House Judiciary panel brought to mind.

Just weeks ago, his daughter, Kate, was killed on a pier in San Francisco. Her alleged murderer was an unlawful alien who had previously been deported five times and was again released onto the streets because San Francisco is a “sanctuary city.” These jurisdictions prohibit their law enforcement officers from sharing information with federal immigration authorities to enable the removal of unlawful and criminal aliens, and in turn, the federal government does nothing to ensure the law is enforced.

In recent weeks, the House Judiciary Committee has been working to examine the dangerous policies adopted by some state and local governments. At an oversight hearing of the Department of Homeland Security, I had the opportunity to question Secretary Johnson about the Administration’s refusal to enforce our immigration laws, including their failure to crack down on sanctuary cities. The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security also held a hearing on sanctuary cities where witnesses spoke about preventable tragedies that have occurred as a result of these policies.

Sanctuary city policies needlessly endanger American lives by refusing to honor the federal government’s authority to enforce immigration laws and must be stopped. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration’s own foolish policies have enabled local governments to defy federal immigration laws. Compliance with detainers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold unlawful aliens in order to take them into custody and begin deportation proceedings must be mandatory. Yet, this Administration openly proclaims that detainers can be ignored and has chosen to dramatically scale back their issuance.

The House of Representatives took direct aim at these irresponsible policies this week by passing the Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act (H.R. 3009). This legislation withholds several federal grants from states or localities that refuse to comply with federal immigration enforcement efforts. Enactment of it will help persuade sanctuary cities to simply abide by current federal law and preserve public safety.

This bill is an important first step. But there is more needed to rebuild immigration enforcement in the United States. The current reality is that this Administration has chosen to create enforcement free zones for millions of unlawful and criminal aliens. The House Majority Leader has said that we will take additional action to ensure compliance with our immigration laws in the future. I look forward to seeing these through the House. Congress must prevent this, or any other Administration, from being able to turn off the immigration enforcement switch.

Bob Goodlatte represents Virginia’s Sixth District in Congress.

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