Congress Wades Into Sanctuary Cities, Again
Congress’s crackdown on sanctuary cities comes with a strong sense of déjà-vu.Back in 1996, lawmakers directed cities to comply with U.S. immigration laws, “notwithstanding any other provision of … state or local law …”Yet sanctuary cities have flourished under Congress’s nose for the past 21 years.Last week, the House repeated the verbiage in its “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act” (HR 3003).Washington’s latest foray against sanctuary cities raises the stakes by threatening to withhold federal funding from non-compliant cities and states. One analysis estimates that the sanctuary jurisdictions of New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle could lose a combined $4.448 billion under HR 3003.But any fiscal hit presupposes: 1) the Senate will pass the House bill and, 2) the law survives inevitable court challenges. With judges blocking President Donald Trump’s earlier effort to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities, does HR 3003 provide enough legal ammunition? Though Congress has clear constitutional authority over appropriation of funds, such facts have not always deterred activist judges.Unwilling to wait around, Texas enacted Senate Bill 4 to strip sanctuary cities of state law-enforcement funds and hold local officials liable for non-compliance. SB 4 does not recognize localities’ right to flout state law.With SB 4 under review in federal court in San Antonio, pro-enforcement Congressman Lamar Smith – who authored Congress’s initial anti-sanctuary legislation in 1996 — took a shot at judicial meddling. “Rogue judges are a threat to democracy,” the Texas Republican told me last week. “Now, at least, we have a president willing to enforce the law.”Amen, and amen.
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