Senate Democrats rejected an effort to push back against sanctuary cities Wednesday, denying a request by Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz to immediately begin debating a bill to impose mandatory minimum federal sentences on repeat-illegal immigrants.
Just a day after the “sanctuary sheriff” in San Francisco, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, lost his bid for re-election in large part due to his stance on the issue, Mr. Cruz tried to force the debate onto the national level.
“This ought to be a clear choice: with whom do you stand? Do you stand with violent criminal illegal aliens, or do you stand with American citizens?” the Texan said.
His bill would create a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for repeat-illegal immigrants who are caught sneaking back into the U.S. after they’ve already been deported.
But Democrats have rallied around sanctuary cities, saying they should have the right to refuse to cooperate with federal agents when it comes to who gets deported.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who blocked Mr. Cruz’s request to begin debating his bill, saying it would require adding 20,000 new prison beds to the federal system, costing millions of dollars — all without any evidence that it would deter potential illegal immigrants from making the journey to the U.S.
The issue heated up in July when 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle was killed while walking on the San Francisco waterfront with her father, and the man accused of the killing was revealed to be a five-times deported illegal immigrant who Sheriff Mirkarimi refused to turn over to immigration agents earlier this year.
Sheriff Mirkarimi has imposed a gag order on his deputies, preventing them from any cooperation with federal agents on immigration. His opponent in Tuesday’s election, former Chief Deputy Vicki Hennessy, had said she would allow cooperation on a case-by-case basis.
She easily trounced the incumbent sheriff in the vote.
Republicans in the House have passed legislation to crack down on sanctuary cities by withholding federal grant money from them, but bills have stalled in the Senate, where Democrats have filibustered.
On Wednesday, Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, introduced a bill to end the U.S. Capitol Police sanctuary policy. The thousands of officers assigned to protect the Capitol complex do not have a policy requiring them to investigate the immigration status of those they arrest, meaning they may not realize they have a wanted illegal immigrant on their hands, Mr. King said.