An often touted fundamental fact of U.S. democracy is that it takes time for a bill to become law: it must go through committees, sometimes even subcommittees, it gets debated, voted on, amended, voted on again and debated a new, all before the final vote. Well throw that out the window when it comes to two anti-immigrant bills that are on this week’s House schedule. HR 3003 and HR 3004, both slated to be voted on this Friday, were introduced by Rep. Goodlatte of VA on Thursday of this past week – meaning that the bills will move from being introduced to getting voted on in nine days without being reviewed by any committees. Just to highlight how unconventional, inappropriate and subversive of the democratic process this is, the official website for the U.S. Congress (www.congress.gov) has not had enough time to register and post the bills’ text.
Today, we will look at HR 3003 – the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act”. Since this bill is slated to be voted on this week, a text of the bill is available through the House Majority Leader‘s schedule; a link to the bill’s text is: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-115hr3003ih/xml/BILLS-115hr3003ih.xml. HR 3003 dovetails with Mr. Trump’s “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” Executive Order. This Executive Order, amongst other things, stated that, “Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States. These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic…. It is the policy of the executive branch to empower State and local law enforcement agencies across the country to perform the functions of an immigration officer in the interior of the United States to the maximum extent permitted by law…. [The Executive Order would] ensure that jurisdictions that fail to comply with applicable Federal law do not receive Federal funds … except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary [Secretary of Homeland Security]” (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/25/presidential-executive-order-enhancing-public-safety-interior-united). Just as an aside this is the Executive Order that decreed the hiring of 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel. A one statement summary of this order would be that the President declared political war on Sanctuary municipalities.
As you may also remember from this past January, California brought forward a measure (CA SB 54 – https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB54) that would make CA a sanctuary state. In its essence the concept of sanctuary is that everyone is better served, better protected when the local police and county sheriff do not take on the enforcement of federal immigration laws (research supports this and more information on this research as well as on the bill can be found in the blog post from March 17, 2017). An ironic turn of events is that CA SB 54 is close to becoming law – it has traveled through committees, debates, votes, amendments, a second and final vote in the Senate and has come out of committee in the House, had its first vote as well as debate and is gearing up for its second vote; meaning that these two bills, if they become law, are on a collision course.
HR 3003 has several provisions for federal and local law enforcement, the key ones are as follows: 1) barring other laws, law enforcement can ask someone about her or his immigration status, 2) local law enforcement would need to tell ICE when they had contact with someone who was undocumented and information on this person would need to passed on – this includes apprehensions for driving under the influence, 3) on a yearly basis ICE would report to Congress the states as well as localities that were not in compliance i.e. were sanctuaries, 4) certain federal funding/monies would be revoked from sanctuary states, 5) people who are the victims of crime where the assailant was an undocumented individual could sue the sanctuary state or city in which the crime occurred if the perpetrator had at a prior time been incarcerated and released by the state/city, 6) all local law enforcement would need to comply with federal detainers (source: see the link to the bill).
This last point, complying with federal detainers, has received the most commentary. In short HR 3003 requires that local law enforcement hold someone, who does not have legal residence in the US, as long as needed i.e. regardless of local laws so that an ICE official can be notified to come and take that individual into ICE custody. Needless to say deportation would be a probable outcome for that individual. Currently there are over 200 states and municipalities that do not comply with current ICE detention requests (http://theweek.com/speedreads/708002/house-vote-2-major-immigration-laws-next-week).
This bill is cloaked in the language of justice, the tragedy of cruel crimes and defending America’s morality. Rep. Goodlatte, the bill’s author, knows how to spin that narrative: “For years, the lack of immigration enforcement and the spread of dangerous sanctuary policies have failed the American people and cost too many lives. The deaths of innocent Americans, such as Kate Steinle, Sarah Root, Grant Ronnebeck, and too many others, are tragic. Their deaths are especially devastating since they could have been prevented if our immigration laws had been enforced…. I have introduced two, straightforward bills to enhance public safety. The bills crack down on dangerous sanctuary policies that needlessly put innocent lives at risk. They enhance penalties for deported felons who return to the United States and ensure unlawful immigrants convicted of drunk driving, or arrested for other dangerous crimes, are detained during their removal proceedings. We owe it to the families of those who lost loved ones to take action to prevent these horrible crimes. They have waited far too long” (http://www.nbc29.com/story/35739128/rep-bob-goodlatte-introduces-bills-to-combat-sanctuary-cities).