Immigration legislation shot down in Senate

Topic A LogoBy The Iowa Statesman


A procedural vote to begin debate on the Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act was blocked Tuesday.

The bill would allow local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration authorities so that criminals deemed a priority for deportation are not released back into American communities.  Importantly, law enforcement groups and the families of victims had announced their support for the bill.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) issued the following statement after the vote was blocked:

“Earlier this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard from families of individuals who were killed by people illegally in the country – many of whom had already racked up multiple criminal convictions and deportations.  Today, we had an opportunity to begin debating a proposal to fix this problem.  Unfortunately, opponents turned the issue into a partisan attack, in favor of the status quo, in which many communities forbid law enforcement from working with federal officials to keep criminal illegal immigrants out of our communities.  Filibustering a debate on policy that may have prevented the deaths of so many individuals is no way to honor their legacies.”

The Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act attempts to curb sanctuary policies by:

  • Reallocating certain federal funds in sanctuary jurisdictions to those who cooperate with federal immigration authorities;
  • Confirming local law enforcement’s legal authority to cooperate with federal immigration officials while preserving civil liberties protections; and
  • Establishing Kate’s Law, a new mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years for illegal immigrants who are convicted of re-entering the U.S. after being convicted of an aggravated felony or being convicted of having illegally re-entered the U.S. twice prior.

The legislation is supported by the National Association of Police Organizations, the National Sheriffs Association, and Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, International Union of Police Associations, several immigration enforcement organizations and a number of families who lost loved ones to individuals illegally in the country.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) also weighed in on the procedural move:

“Law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels should have the opportunity and ability to work together to ensure that potentially dangerous criminals who have entered our country illegally are not set free. This commonsense legislation is an opportunity to discourage shortsighted and dangerous policies that often unfortunately end up protecting such criminals instead of our law-abiding U.S. citizens. Today’s vote was simply about keeping our communities safe by ensuring that DHS can coordinate with state and local law enforcement officials to assume custody of illegal immigrants who commit crimes before they are released back into the community.

“Ultimately, the safety and well-being of our citizens must be the chief priority of law enforcement officials at every level of government. While protecting individuals’ civil liberties, this bill removes the legal liability concerns that may have previously dissuaded state and local cooperation with DHS, thereby clearing the way for a collaborative effort to keep our communities safe.

“I’m disappointed by today’s outcome. Congress must continue to discuss the impact of sanctuary cities on our ability to effectively enforce immigration laws and prevent needless crime.”

Approximately 170,000 convicted criminal aliens who have been ordered to be deported freely walk the streets in the United States. About 300 cities currently provide safe-haven or “sanctuary” to these individuals by refusing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

As the Senate prepared for Tuesday’s blocked vote, Grassley released a numerous statements of support from law enforcement organizations, immigration advocates, and the families of those who have been killed by people illegally in the country, many with previous criminal records. Here are some of the stories he shared:

  • Laura Wilkerson is the mother of Joshua Wilkerson, who was brutally murdered and set on fire by an illegal immigrant in 2010. Joshua’s Story
  • Brian McCann is the brother of Dennis McCann, who was struck and dragged to death by a drunk driver illegally in the country.  Because of Chicago’s sanctuary policy, Dennis’ killer posted bail despite a federal immigration detainer and fled to Mexico before his trial. Dennis’ Story
  • Michael Ronnebeck is uncle of Grant Ronnebeck who was shot point blank in the face while working at a convenience store by a man with a lengthy violent criminal record who was later released on bond pending deportation proceedings. Grant’s Story
  • Susan Oliver is the widow of Deputy Danny Oliver who was killed in the line of duty by a man who had been deported several times with several felonies.  Danny’s Story
  • Don Rosenberg is the father of Drew Rosenberg who was struck and repeatedly run over by an unlicensed immigrant who attempted to flee the scene. Drew’s Story