In the last week (as of 18 June), the US Senate and House have acted in opposite directions on the subject of “Sanctuary Cities.” These are cities which take deliberate steps to protect illegal immigrants within their boundaries, who can and should be deported, and in some cases already have been deported at least once.
In the Senate, Senator Coleman proposed amendment #1158. This would have amended the “comprehensive” illegal immigration bill before the Senate last week, and rising from the dead to be before the Senate again this week. Coleman’s proposal would have required that local law enforcement is not prohibited (in “sanctuary cities”) from acquiring information about the immigration status of a person they have probable cause to believe is not lawfully in the U.S. This was defeated, 48-49.
At the same time, the House acted decisively in the opposite direction. On Friday, 16 June, the House passed an amendment proposed by Rep. Tom Tancredo to withhold federal emergency services funding from sanctuary cities. Many press accounts add the phrase “so-called” before the word sanctuary.
There is no doubt factually that there are sanctuary cities. Los Angeles has exactly the policy tying the hands of its police that Senator Coleman sought to end. New Haven, Connecticut, has just passed by a vote of 25-1 of its Aldermen to provide City ID to illegal immigrants. And last week the Mayor of Portland provided free city services to families of illegals arrested there, and referred to them as “citizens of Portland.” The fact that they were also citizens of other nations apparently escaped his notice.
So there are sanctuary cities, to which Rep. Tancredo’s amendment was addressed. And his proposal to amend the funding for the Department of Homeland Security was accepted by the House by a vote of 234 to 189, with 50 Democrats voting in favor. According to Tancredo’s home state paper, the Rocky Mountain News, he had proposed similar amendments seven times before, all defeated.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has said that she needs “70 Republican votes to pass the immigration plan.” Rep. Tancredo said that the defection of Democrats and the solidity of Republicans on this issue indicates that the House “will crush” the Senate bill on illegal immigration in anything like its current form.
No actions of the Senate and House are final, of course, until either House has passed its final version of any bill, and the versions of each House have been approved by joint committees of both Houses.