The nation's sanctuary cities should have federal taxpayer dollars withheld until they start cooperating with federal immigration officials, Sen. Pat Toomey said Saturday.
"Sanctuary cities impose terrible costs on our communities [and] on our country, including increased crime, and tragically, lost lives like Kate Steinle's," the Pennsylvania Republican said in this week's GOP address, delivered just a year after the nation was stunned by Steinle's murder.
On July 1, 2015, the young woman was walking with her father, Jim, on a San Francisco pier when a gunman opened fire, hitting her. Her last words were to her father: "Help me, Dad," while she bled to death in his arms.
"This tragedy was compounded by the fact that the shooter should never have been on the pier that day," said Toomey. "He was a career criminal who had previously been convicted of seven felonies, and he was an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times."
But just three months earlier, the San Francisco sheriff's department had the man in custody, and the Department of Homeland Security asked the sheriff's office to hold him or notify them before he was released so he could be picked up.
"But San Francisco refused, and instead they released Kate Steinle's killer," said Toomey. "Why did they do that? Because San Francisco is a 'sanctuary city.' It forbids its local law enforcement officers from cooperating with federal immigration officials — even when they're trying to detain criminals."
The senator said that as the father of three young children, he could not imagine the pain the Steinle family has had, but they are not alone.
"An internal Department of Homeland Security memo revealed that during an eight-month period in 2014, sanctuary cities across America released 8,000 illegal immigrants, and 1,800 of them were later arrested for criminal acts," said Toomey. "This included two cities that released individuals who had been arrested for child sexual abuse, and in both cases, the individuals were later re-arrested for sexually assaulting additional young children."
The policy makes no sense, the Senator said.
"It's no wonder officials from across the political spectrum and numerous law enforcement groups have criticized these dangerous sanctuary city policies," said Toomey. "Even President Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson called the policies 'not acceptable' and 'counterproductive to public safety.'"
The issue is not about immigration, but rather about public safety, said Toomey, and that is why he has introduced the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act.
The vast majority of immigrants would never commit violent crimes, he pointed out, but there will always be violent criminals among any large group of people.
"It makes no sense to give those violent criminals any safe haven," said Toomey. "My legislation states that if a city chooses to be a sanctuary city, then it will not receive certain federal grants. That's just fair."
Toomey said his legislation was supported by a bipartisan majority, but a minority of the Senate, led by Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, blocked discussion.
"It's just outrageous and this must not stand," said Toomey. "The safety of the American people is too important — the lives of Kate Steinle and so many others are too important — to allow sanctuary cities to remain, and this is why I will continue fighting to protect our communities."
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