House Bill Seeks to Deny ‘Sanctuary Cities’ Immigration Enforcement Funds

By Edwin Mora | May 14, 2012 | 12:06 AM EDT

Rep. Joe Walsh (R.-Ill.) speaking at a Tea Party rally on Capitol Hill on July 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

( – “Sanctuary” cities and states that fail to enforce federal immigration law will be denied funding from a program designed to offset costs incurred in the incarceration of criminal illegals – if a prohibition built into an appropriations bill becomes law.

The Republican-controlled House on May 10 approved a 2013 appropriations bill containing a provision, introduced by Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), that prohibits the Department of Justice (DOJ) from disbursing State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) funds to such authorities.

SCAAP provides federal funds to states and localities that incur costs for incarcerating illegal criminal aliens who have committed at least one felony or two misdemeanor, and are kept in custody for at least four consecutive days.

The program is jointly administered by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – both components of the Department of Homeland Security – and the DOJ.

Speaking on the House floor about his amendment, Walsh noted that Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act in 1996.

“This bill not only required localities to communicate with federal agencies when legal and illegal aliens may have been picked up for crimes, but also provided money to help them do so,” he said.

“Since then additional programs, such as the Criminal Alien Assistance Program and Secure Communities, have been implemented to ensure further that localities have the resources they need to meet their responsibilities,” Walsh said. “And the federal government has stated time and again that participation in these programs is not optional.”

“Yet despite that, some cities and even whole states blatantly ignore federal requirements,” he continued.

“What is even worse is that these ‘sanctuary cities’ still receive money for their so-called immigration efforts under State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. In fact, one city [San Francisco] received $1.1 million at the same time it designated itself as a ‘city and county of refuge.’ And one state has even passed laws that prohibit – prohibit – law enforcement agencies from ‘detecting or apprehending those in violation of US immigration laws.’”

Walsh said his amendment would prohibit the DOJ from providing funds for immigration enforcement efforts to “sanctuary cities.”

“This is a smart amendment that will require America’s local law enforcement officers to do just that – enforce the laws we pass – to receive the money we provide them to do so.”

The amendment was agreed to by a voice vote, and the $51.1 billion 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act subsequently passed by a 247-163 vote, with eight Republicans voting against and 23 Democrats in favor.

The approved funding is $731 million less than the administration requested, and $1.6 billion lower than last year’s level.

The White House has threatened to veto the measure, arguing among other things that it includes deeper cuts than the spending caps agreed under last year’s Budget Control Act

Other amendments to the legislation include one by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), prohibiting the DOJ from using funds to defend challenges to Obamacare. It was approved by a 229-194 vote.

An amendment by Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) bars DOJ from using taxpayer funds against the Defense of Marriage Act. It passed by a 245-171 vote, with seven Republicans voting against it and 16 Democrats voting in favor.

And an amendment by Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), which prevents the DOJ from using funds to bring action against states that implement voter ID laws, passed by a 232-190 vote. Seven GOP lawmakers voted against the proposal and one Democrat voted in favor of it.

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