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Sen. Pat Toomey Breaks Down His New Bill To Cut Funding From Sanctuary Cities

Virginia Kruta Associate Editor

Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey is pushing hard for an end to “dangerous sanctuary city policies.”

His latest legislation, the “Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act,” was introduced just ahead of the Memorial Day holiday weekend on May 23. A similar amendment, introduced by Toomey last year, failed to gain momentum. Toomey spoke exclusively with The Daily Caller to explain his reasoning and what he hopes to accomplish.

The Pennsylvania Senator explained that his bill was designed to work in two ways: first, it would take away some federal funding from sanctuary jurisdictions. Second, it would remove one of the legal concerns cited by sanctuary cities for not wanting to cooperate with the federal government. (RELATED: Trump Takes Aim At Sanctuary Cities)

Current sanctuary cities refuse to cooperate with federal law enforcement in several different ways. One is to refuse to honor detention orders from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Another is to decline to provide Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers with information about illegal immigrants released by local law enforcement. Both of these policies would be grounds for pulling federal funding under Toomey’s bill.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officers execute criminal search warrants and arrest more than 100 company employees on federal immigration violations at a trailer manufacturing business in Sumner, Texas, U.S, August 28, 2018. Picture taken August 28, 2018. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Handout via REUTERS

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officers execute criminal search warrants and arrest more than 100 company employees on federal immigration violations at a trailer manufacturing business in Sumner, Texas, U.S, August 28, 2018. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Handout via REUTERS

Community Development Block Grant funding, which totaled $3.3 billion in FY 19, would be withheld from sanctuary cities, as would funding marked for Economic Development Administration grants ($162 million in FY 19). Designated sanctuary municipalities would still be eligible for grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and trade adjustment assistance grants.

Perhaps more importantly, Toomey’s bill would fix a legal technicality that allows sanctuary jurisdictions to claim cooperating with federal authorities exposes them to lawsuits. Toomey called this the, “only legitimate reason a municipality could give for maintaining its status as a sanctuary municipality.”

“Some communities opt to be sanctuary communities who won’t honor detainers because of the legal liability if that detention is later found to be unlawful or if DHS has made a mistake,” Toomey explained. “If it turns out that it was a wrongful detention at DHS’s request, the municipality can be held liable even though the error was not theirs.” (RELATED: Trump Floats Dropping Illegals Off In Sanctuary Cities)

S. 1644 aims to prevent that by transferring the liability for any wrongful detention at ICE’s request to the federal government rather than the local authorities.

Toomey explained that his bill would provide some protection for local officials acting in good faith, ensuring that when they comply with federal detainers, “they are delegated the same powers as DHS agents and are considered to be agents of the federal government while taking actions to enforce those detainers.”

The individuals being detained would still retain the right to sue for civil rights violations, whether those might be due to intentional action or negligence, but the target of any such lawsuit would be changed to the federal government rather than the local officials who acted in good faith at DHS’s request.
Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) questions witnesses at the Senate Finance Committee in Washington May 21, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) questions witnesses at the Senate Finance Committee in Washington May 21, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Given the current composition of Congress, Toomey said he knew the bill had little chance of getting off the ground anywhere but the Senate. “The legislation is not a near-term thing,” he noted. “We want to underscore the difference between where Republicans and Democrats stand on this particular issue. We win the argument with the public massively, nobody wants law enforcement protecting criminals. But we need to keep the heat on to push the conversation in our direction.”

In an interview with the Free Beacon, Toomey elaborated, “Why in the world do they want to protect these people when among them are violent criminals? That’s what we’re talking about here: We’re talking about people who are being picked up by local law enforcement for a reason. … The idea that we’ve got to protect these criminals from the consequences of their own prior criminal acts is just unbelievable to me.”

Toomey said the sanctuary policy already in place in his home state in Philadelphia was one of the reasons the issue hits so close to home for him.”There was really a series of appalling incidents including one case where Philadelphia police had to release a criminal. They didn’t want to but they weren’t allowed to cooperate with ICE, and he went on to rape a small child,” he said.

“Sanctuary cities are magnets for serial criminals,” he added. “If you’re in the country and you’re going to commit crimes, you’re going to go where the local law enforcement has no choice but to let you go. Philadelphia might as well put out a banner inviting criminals to come in if they’re here illegally.” (RELATED: ‘Change The Laws Now!’ Trump Takes Aim At Sanctuary Cities, Democrats)

Toomey went on to applaud President Donald Trump and his administration’s attempts to address the issues of illegal immigration and sanctuary city policies. “Some has been done through executive order but legislation would go further,” he said.

Toomey’s bill has officialy been endorsed by the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Association of Police Organizations, The International Union of Police Associations AFL-CIO and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

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