WASHINGTON (CN) – Senate Democrats blocked a bill Tuesday that would defund so-called sanctuary cities – jurisdictions that ignore federal detainers on immigrants whom the government seeks to deport.
Sponsored by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., the bill would have disqualified such cities from receiving several federal grants and redistribute the funds they would have received to other jurisdictions in the same state that comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Vitter’s bill also called for the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to publish a list of the cities that do not fully cooperate with ICE, along with the total number of immigration holds and the number of those requests each city ignored.
The Stop Sanctuary Cities and Protect Americans Act needed 60 yeas to advance but failed Tuesday by a vote of 54-45.
Two Democrats, Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voted against their party in supporting the cloture motion, while Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois voted with the Democrats.
Democrats have criticized the bill as being anti-immigrant, with multiple senators referring to the bill as the “Donald Trump Act,” a reference to the Republican presidential candidate who used his campaign-announcement speech to denigrate Mexican immigrants as rapists.
“Like the disgusting and outrageous language championed by Trump, this legislation paints all immigrants as ‘criminals and rapists,'” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Monday.
The bill came together shortly after a Mexican national whom the United States had previously deported was arrested for the July 1 fatal shooting of Kate Steinle in San Francisco.
Sanchez had spent a few weeks in a San Francisco jail on drug charges a few months before the shooting, but San Francisco declined to keep Sanchez in custody though ICE had placed a federal detainer on him.
San Francisco instead released Sanchez after confirming that there were no active warrants out for his arrest.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., called the bill “anti-law enforcement.”
Though Boxer said a police chief in San Jose told her “unequivocally” that ending sanctuary cities gives criminals sanctuaries of their own, Boxer has not elaborated on specific indicators of this.
After the vote, Boxer said the bill “was a budget buster and it was anti-law enforcement.”
Supporters of the bill championed it as a matter of enforcing the law and a way to deter violent criminals from going free.
“This is really a question of whether we are going to be a union, a nation of honoring our constitution and enforcing our constitution or whether we are going to be a confederation of separate entities that just somehow work together when it’s convenient and don’t when it’s not,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters before the vote.
Democratic leadership went further than to criticize the bill itself, lamenting the fact that Republicans even brought the measure to the floor with a deadline looming to raise the debt ceiling before the beginning of November.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Republicans were practicing “brinksmanship” by bringing a bill they knew would fail to the floor for a vote.
“We’ve spent a month on show votes that no one thought would pass,” Schumer told reporters before the vote. “We spent all that time when there were these crises looming and reviewing legislation that would be sure to be vetoed if it could even pass.”
Schumer mentioned the “dozens and dozens” of judicial nominations waiting for confirmation as another area Republicans could address instead of holding votes like Tuesday’s. Earlier in the day, the Senate confirmed Ann Donnelly for a seat in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he planned to take up a cybersecurity bill soon, and that he will wait for the House to act before taking up a debt-ceiling bill.
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