Washington – Senate Democrats on Tuesday derailed an effort to strip federal policing grants from “sanctuary” cities and states like Connecticut that protect residents from deportation.
Connecticut Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy were among those who voted 54-45 to block the bill, sponsored by Sen. David Vitter, R -La. Supporters needed 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and advance the bill.
The bill would withhold millions of dollars in federal policing grants from cities that protect their residents from deportation and limit police coordination with federal immigration enforcement.
The legislation, and a similar bill approved by the House this summer, was prompted by the July 1 killing of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco by an undocumented immigrant. Supporters of the legislation say San Francisco’s policy of not sharing certain law enforcement information with federal immigration authorities, was to blame for the murder.
Hartford and New Haven are among dozens of cities with police departments that have established policies of not asking the immigration status of those they arrest or detain. And Connecticut in 2013 passed the “Trust Act” that allows state and local law enforcement agencies to ignore a federal “detainer,” a request to hold an undocumented resident for immigration officials, if he or she hasn’t committed a serious felony.
Murphy said the bill would have put as much as $20 million in annual federal policing grants for Connecticut in jeopardy. Most of that money, more than $15 million, comes in the form of Community Development Block Grants.
“Republicans in Congress are trying to tell police officers in Connecticut how to do their jobs,” Murphy said. “Rather than taking partisan show votes on a harmful anti-immigrant bill, we should be focused on passing comprehensive immigration reform that secures our borders, helps law enforcement, and provides a pathway to citizenship that will keep families together.”
Blumenthal called the bill “politically motivated demagoguery that could cost Connecticut millions of dollars in law enforcement funding and valuable cooperation, making our state and nation less safe.”
“It has the potential to deny millions of dollars to law enforcement — resources that are essential to public safety and economic security — in a misguided effort to punish states like Connecticut for trying to build trust between police and the communities they serve,” Blumenthal said.
But supporters of the legislation, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said it was not fair, in a time of limited resources, “to treat localities that cooperate with federal law enforcement or work hard to follow federal law no better than localities that refuse to help or actively flout the law.”
With little prospect of changing the votes of Senate Democrats, action on the bill Tuesday was considered a “show vote” in an election year.
And the Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday recommended President Obama veto the bill if it ever gets to his desk.
OMB said the bill would strip jurisdictions of “funding that is critical to their efforts to ensure public safety and to tackle serious problems facing their communities,” and “essentially turn state and local law enforcement into federal immigration law enforcement officials.”
Despite the slim chance that a “sanctuaries” bill will become law, the issue is likely to be used by the GOP to attack certain Democrats in the 2016 elections.