There is a place for sanctuary citiesOn Tuesday, October 20th, 2015, the United States Senate held a vote on S. 2146, entitled the Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act. This bill focuses on the topic of sanctuary cities, and has two main parts.

  1. The bill outlines several punishments for states that are deemed to be sanctuary jurisdictions (a state or political subdivision that either restricts information sharing about an individual immigrant’s status, or prohibits compliance with an immigration detainer). For example, losing funding for a host of federal policing programs.
  2. Introduces new prison sentences for deported immigrants who illegally re-enter the U.S., including a 10 maximum prison term for an immigrant who illegally re-enters the United States after being removed, deported, denied admission, or excluded on three or more prior occasions.

What is the status of the Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act?

There is hope for those who would be impacted by this bill however, as it is facing a great deal of turbulence on the Senate floor. The vote this Tuesday was a vote for cloture, which means a vote to end debate. Basically, if a Senator feels that the debate over a bill has gone on for too long, they can propose a vote of cloture. If three fifths of the senators agree and vote yes, the debate on the bill will end and a vote will be held. With 54 votes yes and 45 votes no (note that one senator declined to vote), the vote did not pass, as it did not meet the required 60 votes for yes. This means that the bill will continue to be debated over, and it is likely that the bill will change some before it comes up for a full vote.

Is there a place for a Sanctuary City legislation?

I have seen immigration detainers do a lot of harm, but there is a place for it. Those charged with serious offenses should be referred to immigration services. However, routine traffic offenses or minor criminal matters shouldn’t be unless they have numerous prior offenses. Bottom line, is the immigrant a danger to the community? If he or she could be because of the seriousness of the current charge or a history of past misconduct then a detainer should be honored. Let immigration exercise some discretion, but the legislation should discuss the factors for that discussion. Make sure that your voice is heard. Call or write to your senator. You will be surprised how much your voice can carry.

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