Note: I've changed the title of this post in order to address a second, critical amendment by John Cornyn. See the first update below.
The senior Senator from Minnesota, Norm Coleman, will offer an amendment to end the practice of "sanctuary cities" and demand compliance with immigration laws. Coleman wants to close the loophole various cities opened in the 1996 immigration bill that allows them to ignore the illegal status of people arrested by their law enforcement agencies:
In an effort to strengthen national security, Senator Norm Coleman yesterday introduced an amendment to the Immigration bill to make sure local law enforcement officials are able to communicate with federal law enforcement agencies regarding suspected immigration violations. Currently, a number of cities throughout the nation are using a loophole to get around Sec. 642 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996 by instituting ordinances forbidding local law enforcement to even ask the question as to whether a person is in the U.S. lawfully, thereby evading their legal responsibility to report their suspicions to the federal government.
“In a post 9-11 world, it is simply unacceptable for communities to ignore federal laws requiring them to share this type of information with federal authorities. This is not a matter of making state and local governments enforce federal immigration laws, it is simply a matter of closing this loophole that certain cities have created,” said Coleman. “This defies common sense, as the rule of law must apply to both legal and illegal residents. Moreover, we know how crucial it is to connect the dots in order to avert another terrorist attack in this country. The consequences of prohibiting information sharing are too great. To close this loophole, I have introduced an amendment that will ensure the lines of communication are open between local and federal law enforcement officials.”
Senator Coleman’s legislation will not require local law enforcement to use their own resources to enforce federal immigration laws. Moreover, it does not require local law enforcement to conduct immigration raids or act as federal agents. Senator Coleman’s bill will simply give law enforcement officers the ability to inquiry about a person’s immigration status during their routine investigations, and in turn report their findings to the appropriate Federal authorities though already-established channels, as they are currently required to do by law.
Coleman says that the impetus for this amendment comes from the capture of the Fort Dix Six. They had numerous contacts with law enforcement, and yet no one notified federal authorities of their illegal status. Not until a sharp-thinking clerk alerted the FBI about their jihadi videos did anyone realize the threat that had metastasized in New Jersey.
I believe Coleman supports the immigration compromise, at least conceptually. Coleman has a propensity to reach across the aisle for solutions, which he explained very well two weeks ago at an appearance at the University of Minnesota. However, this clear thinking shows why Coleman gives Republicans a strong voice in the Senate, and why many of us support him even when he wanders off the reservation from time to time.
It's time to end the "sanctuary city" phenomenon, especially since this compromise purports to clamp down on illegal immigration -- a claim that its details don't support very well at all. If the compromise fails, Coleman should introduce this as a free-standing bill in this session of Congress to demand that cities quit hiding criminals from the ICE.
UPDATE: John Cornyn has proposed an even more critical amendment, one that appears to have Democrats a bit flummoxed:
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship subcommittee, on Wednesday introduced an amendment to the immigration bill to close a gaping loophole in the bill that will ensure the following individuals are either permanently barred from the United States or prohibited from getting any immigration benefit: members of terrorist-related organizations, known gang members, sex offenders, alien smugglers who use firearms and felony drunk drivers.
“The question I put to my colleagues is this: Should Congress permanently bar from the U.S. and from receiving any immigration benefit: suspected terrorists, gang members, sex offenders, felony drunk drivers, and other individuals who are a danger to society?,” Sen. Cornyn said. “I hope that every Senator would answer this question with a positive response.
Sen. Cornyn’s amendment also closes the loophole in the pending bill that allows legalization of those illegal immigrants who have violated court ordered deportations, or absconders.
This will address two key points on the Heritage Foundation's list of issues about the immigration proposal. It also creates an almost unbearable political situation. Who will go on record as endorsing the entry/normalization of gang members, coyotes, sex offenders, and other undesirables? Whoever votes against the Cornyn amendment will have to deal with election advertisements that say, "Senator X voted to allow known sex offenders and drunk drivers in your community."
Good luck rebutting those.
It also addresses the issue of absconders. These are people who have deportation orders that they have ignored until now. Heritage estimates that over 600,000 absconders would receive de facto pardons under this plan. Cornyn wants to restore the rule of law and the authority of the criminal-justice system by denying them profit from their refusal to obey a court order. It's another tough point for critics to rebut. If Cornyn can get his amendment to the floor, expect it to pass by an overwhelming margin.