Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act” (H.R. 3009). Introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and cosponsored by 36 other House Republicans, this legislation aims to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to deny certain federal assistance to “sanctuary cities.” Friday’s House vote went mostly down party lines, with 241 Members in favor and 179 Members opposed.
This legislation was introduced one week after the tragic shooting of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco, and it aims to strip funding from state and local law enforcement agencies in “sanctuary cities” like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Dayton, and Washington, DC. There are over 200 state and local jurisdictions that are categorized as a sanctuary city because they have chosen to not honor U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention requests. While several Members of Congress have accused these cities of not complying with federal law, others have applauded them for practicing community-oriented trust policies.
The Jewish community has been concerned for years that rather than making communities more secure, policies that aim to limit sanctuary cities, like H.R. 3009, will drive a wedge between local law enforcement and the communities they are entrusted to protect. For instance, if there is a perception that calling the police may lead to deportation, police may find undocumented persons and their family members hesitant to seek protection, report crimes committed against them, or serve as witnesses. The police’s ability to keep the community safe could be seriously compromised when law enforcement instead needs to build trust and communication with the immigrant community.
The recent shooting in San Francisco is tragic, however this event should not be used to scapegoat all immigrants. This legislation will not bring us closer to fixing our country’s broken immigration system—we must instead work together to thoughtfully and strategically reform our laws in a way that is consistent with security concerns, economic realities, and our history as a nation of immigrants.