Washington, D.C. -- Today, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) introduced an amendment to the immigration bill presently being debated in the U.S. Senate to end dangerous sanctuary city policies. This continues his longstanding fight to protect our communities from violent criminals who are in the U.S. illegally.
Sen. Toomey's legislation would withhold certain non-law enforcement federal grant funds from "sanctuary cities" -- jurisdictions that forbid their local law enforcement officers from cooperating with federal immigration officials, even when they wish to do so.
The amendment also addresses court decisions that may leave local police and municipalities liable when they assist the Department of Homeland Security but the DHS has made an error. Sen. Toomey's amendment preserves an individual's right to sue if a law enforcement officer commits any violation of the individual's civil or constitutional rights. However, his amendment ensures that if the federal government committed the error or violated a right, the individual sues the federal government, not a local official acting in good faith and in compliance with a request from the DHS. The legislation also provides safe harbor to persons in the country illegally who come forward to report a crime.
"It is past time to act. Sanctuary city policies make it harder to stop illegal immigration and keep dangerous criminals off the streets," said Senator Toomey. "Sanctuary cities such as Philadelphia and San Francisco endanger all of us by conferring a special protection to illegal immigrants even when federal immigration officials identify them as dangerous criminals. This is simply inexcusable."
In July of 2016, Philadelphia police arrested Ramon Aguirre-Ochoa, a 45-year-old Honduran national in the U.S. illegally, for raping a child under the age of 13. Aguirre-Ochoa had been deported in 2009, only to re-enter the U.S. illegally. Philadelphia police had Aguirre-Ochoa in custody in 2015. But when the Department of Homeland Security asked the city to hold him so they could come pick him up and deport him, Philadelphia officials refused. The city's sanctuary city policy forbade its law enforcement officers from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. Instead, Aguirre-Ochoa was permitted to roam free and was eventually arrested for raping a young child.
Sen. Toomey's amendment is identical to his Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act, which received majority, bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate in 2016, and is endorsed by the following law enforcement groups:
• Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association
• National Association of Police Organizations
• International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO