Washington, D.C. - Next week, the U.S. Senate is scheduled to consider Senator Pat Toomey's (R-Pa.) bill to protect our communities from violent criminals and suspected terrorists who are in the U.S. illegally.
The danger posed by sanctuary cities was illustrated by the July 1, 2015 murder of Kate Steinle. Kate and her father were walking arm-in-arm down a San Francisco pier when a shooter gunned her down. The shooter should never have been on the pier that day. He was in the U.S. illegally, and had previously been convicted of seven felonies and deported five times. Three months prior to Kate's death, the shooter was in police custody. Federal officials requested San Francisco turn over the shooter, but, under the city's sanctuary city policy, police were compelled to refuse and instead released him.
Too often, local law enforcement officers want to work with the Obama administration to take dangerous criminals and suspected terrorists off of the streets, but they are forbidden from doing so by "sanctuary city" policies imposed by local politicians.
Sen. Toomey's Stop Dangerous Sanctuary City Policies Act would withhold certain federal funds from sanctuary cities-jurisdictions that forbid their law enforcement officers from cooperating with federal immigration officials.
The Toomey bill also addresses federal court decisions-including one by the Third Circuit, which governs Pennsylvania-that may leave local police liable for errors by the Department of Homeland Security. Two federal courts have held that if the Department of Homeland Security makes an error-for example, asks local law enforcement to hold someone who is in the U.S. legally, and local law enforcement in good faith complies with the request, local law enforcement can be held liable for the federal government's error.
Sen. Toomey's legislation preserves an individual's right to sue if a law enforcement officer commits any violations of the individual's civil or constitutional rights. The bill simply provides that if the federal government committed an error or violated a right, the individual shall sue the federal government, not a local official acting in good-faith compliance with a request from the Department of Homeland Security.
Leaders from both political parties have recognized the dangers of sanctuary cities. President Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, has called sanctuary cities "counterproductive" and "not acceptable." Former Governor and lifelong Democrat Ed Rendell has criticized Philadelphia's sanctuary city policy. And Pennsylvania law enforcement officers and prosecutors from across the political spectrum have called for an end to sanctuary city policies.
"Sanctuary city policies not only make it harder to stop illegal immigration and keep dangerous criminals off the streets, they also undermine our anti-terrorism efforts," said Sen. Toomey. "Sanctuary cities such as Philadelphia refuse to cooperate with the federal government in locating suspected terrorists who are in their custody and are in the country illegally. This refusal is simply inexcusable in light of the growing threat from violent Islamist extremism and recent terror attacks in San Bernardino, Orlando, Turkey, and elsewhere.
"My legislation stands for the simple proposition that the safety of the American people matters. The life of Kate Steinle matters. Protecting our neighborhoods from violent criminals and terrorists matters. As the Steinles observe the tragic anniversary of their daughter's death Friday, they deserve to know that we care about that loss too. We must do what we can to prevent another senseless and avoidable death."
The below organizations have endorsed Sen. Toomey's bill.
• Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association
• National Sheriffs' Association
• National Association of Police Organizations
• International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO
• Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)