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House sanctuary cities bill: Alabama delegation follows party-line vote on illegal immigration legislation

July 23, 2015
In The News

All of Alabama's six Republican House members voted Thursday in favor of a bill to cut off funding to states and cities that don't cooperate with federal immigration enforcement efforts. The bill passed along party lines, 241-179; only five Republicans voted against the legislation while six Democrats were "yes" votes. U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, was among the "no" votes.

The bill, known as the Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act, would make state and local jurisdictions ineligible for state criminal alien assistance program funding if they don't cooperate with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service or other federal agencies about a person's citizenship or immigration status. The funds would also be denied if state and local authorities don't gather citizenship or immigration status for people they detain.

So-called "sanctuary cities" have been in the spotlight since the July 1 killing of Kathryn "Kate" Steinle in San Francisco. The 31-year-old was allegedly murdered by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an illegal immigrant with a lengthy criminal history who had also illegally reentered the country a number of times. San Francisco is among the localities that don't cooperate with federal immigration officials when an undocumented immigrant finishes a jail sentence.

 "If a city chooses not to cooperate with the federal government in enforcing immigration law, then they should not receive the benefit of federal law enforcement funding," said U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Hoover, who was among the six Republican members of Alabama's House delegation to vote in favor of the bill., "The rule of law must always remain a high priority for every elected official if we are to maintain our constitutional order."

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope, spoke in support of the bill on Wednesday. He said testimony from Steinle's father to a Senate committee on Tuesday during a hearing on sanctuary cities was "very emotional" and "powerful."

"There's been a failure here, and in part, it's our failure, and I don't think it's too much for any of us to understand the human component of that father," he said. "And this is not an isolated incident, unfortunately. If it's not an isolated incident, it's going to happen again until somebody stops it."

similar bill was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday by U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. The Protecting American Lives Act would also withhold federal funding to sanctuary cities but also includes a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for those who illegally enter the country after being deported.