Congress' Attempt To Cut Federal Funds For “Sanctuary Cities” Was Built On Fox News' Rhetoric

Senate Democrats have temporarily blocked a measure that would deny federal law enforcement funds to so-called “sanctuary cities,” where local authorities don't automatically report undocumented immigrants without a record of serious criminal offenses to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. The idea for the bill was raised and enthusiastically promoted by figures on Fox News, who urged Republicans to “starve” these cities of federal money, despite experts noting that defunding would hurt public safety and evidence showing that so-called “sanctuary cities” are not actually a “safe haven” for undocumented immigrants and, in fact, deter criminality.

Senate Blocks Measure To Defund So-Called “Sanctuary Cities”

Roll Call: Bill To Punish “Sanctuary Cities” Blocked By Senate Democrats. On October 20, Senate Democrats blocked a measure that would deny federal law enforcement funds to so-called “sanctuary cities.” Sponsored by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), the legislation sought to punish municipal authorities that don't follow federal law in relation to undocumented immigrants under their custody. [, 10/20/15]

Washington Post: Failed Attempt “Might Not Mean The End For The Legislation.” According to The Washington Post's Mike DeBonis, there is potential that there will be new attempts to defund so-called “sanctuary cities,” possibly by “attach[ing] the provisions of Vitter's bill to must-pass legislation”:

Tuesday's vote might not mean the end for the legislation in the current Congress -- especially with another year's worth of presidential campaigning ahead. Cruz, who is running for president, on Tuesday called on Republican leaders to attach the provisions of Vitter's bill to must-pass legislation, adding them to a long list of issues that could play into coming showdowns between congressional Republicans and President Obama.

“The next step is not simply to have a vote,” Cruz said. “The next step is to attach this legislation to must-pass legislation and to actually fix this problem.” [Washington Post, 10/20/15]

Fox News Strongly Advocated For A Bill Defunding Sanctuary Cities

Fox's Krauthammer Suggests Withholding Money As “The Only Thing You Can Do.” Commenting on Bill O'Reilly's suggestion that the federal government “crack down” on so-called “sanctuary cities,” Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer said in July that “the only thing you can do is withhold money.” [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/6/15]

Fox's O'Reilly Urged Federal Government To “Starve” Sanctuary Cities Of Money. On the July 8 edition of his show, The O'Reilly Factor, while interviewing Reps. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) and Duncan Hunter (R-CA), host Bill O'Reilly urged them to pass legislation that would allow the federal government to “starve” so-called sanctuary cities of money. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/8/15]

Fox's O'Reilly Directly Asks Republicans To Defund Sanctuary Cities. On the July 29 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly urged the Republican Party to pass legislation that would cut federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities (emphasis added):

Hey, Republican Party, do something -- that is the subject of this evening's “Talking Points Memo.” It was quite clear last November that the country had lost confidence in President Obama's leadership and the policies of the Democratic Party in general. In the House of Representatives there are now 246 Republicans, 188 Democrats. In the Senate there are 54 Republicans, 44 Democrats, two Independents who lean Democratic.

So Republicans have a huge opportunity to pass legislation that would improve the lives of Americans. Currently there are three very simple situations that need to be confronted. First the defunding of Planned Parenthood until a federal investigation into their selling of baby body parts is completed.

Second, passing of Kate's Law which would mandate aggravated felon illegal aliens who defy deportation be sentenced to a minimum of five years in a federal penitentiary.

And third, that sanctuary cities would lose federal funding. Simple and direct proposed laws. [Fox News Network, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/29/15]

Defunding “Sanctuary Cities” Would Hurt Public Safety

American Immigration Lawyers Association: Bill To Defund Sanctuary Cities Would “Hurt Public Safety.” According to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the Grassley-Vitter bill “will put critical law enforcement” at risk, hurting public safety:

Under a new proposal from Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and David Vitter (R-LA), funding for critical law enforcement and economic development activities in cities and counties with community trust policies is in danger. These law enforcement-backed policies increase public safety by nurturing trust between law enforcement officials and the communities they police. Nevertheless, they are being targeted by Sens. Grassley and Vitter to punish so-called “sanctuary cities.” This bill seeks to impose one-size-fits-all policies that can harm public safety, rather than letting local officials and law enforcement decide how best to protect their communities.

The Grassley-Vitter bill targets three programs in particular: The Community Oriented Policing Service grants, which help law enforcement agencies hire additional personnel; the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which reimburses localities for the cost of detaining unauthorized immigrants; and the Community Development Block Grants, which help jurisdictions improve living conditions, housing, and public infrastructure. Taken together, this funding adds up to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars for states across the nation, designed to build stronger communities. [AILA, 9/1/15]

California Attorney General Harris: “Criminal Justice Policy Should Not Be Conflated With National Immigration Policy.” In an October 19 press release, California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced she had sent a letter to the U.S. Senate, urging legislators to oppose the bill that “would potentially withhold federal funding” from so-called “sanctuary cities” because doing so could disrupt the “the delicate balance struck in California to protect public safety and strengthen the relationship of trust between law enforcement and communities.” From the press release:

In the letter, Attorney General Harris expresses concerns over this effort to undermine the delicate balance struck in California to protect public safety and strengthen the relationship of trust between law enforcement and communities.

“I strongly believe that serious and violent criminals--whether undocumented or not--should be held accountable for their crimes. But when local law enforcement officials are seen as de facto immigration agents, it erodes the trust between our peace officers and the communities we are sworn to serve,” Attorney General Harris stated in the letter. “Criminal justice policy should not be conflated with national immigration policy.”


The letter makes clear that California local law enforcement agencies are always able to notify ICE about serious criminals or those who pose a threat to public safety or national security. The TRUST Act allows local law enforcement to notify ICE about serious criminals, while requiring that local agencies analyze public safety risks posed by an individual, including a review of the arrest offense and criminal history, before deciding whether to devote local resources to hold an undocumented immigrant on behalf of the federal government. [California's Office Of The Attorney General, 10/19/15]

So-Called “Sanctuary Cities” Not Safe Havens For Criminal Activity, Actually Deter Crime

CNN's Cuomo: Sanctuary Cities Not “Safe Havens” For Undocumented Immigrants. On CNN's New Day, Chris Cuomo pointed out that the term “sanctuary city” is a “misnomer,” noting that such cities are “not safe havens” in a July 13 interview with Donald Trump aide Michael Cohen:

CUOMO: We know these problems exist. It's how do we solve them? Him [Trump] saying, I'm going to charge people who come illegally a hundred thousand dollars -- do you think that's a real solution?

COHEN: No, but what I'll tell you what he did do: he also opened up the eyes to (sic) many Americans that didn't even know sanctuaries existed.

CUOMO: What sanctuaries?

COHEN: These sanctuaries on the border that allow illegals to stay -- and, if in fact that they end up getting caught, they cannot deport them-

CUOMO: You're talking about sanctuary cities that exist all over the country?

COHEN: Yeah, sanctuary cities -- that's correct-

CUOMO: That's a misnomer. Those are cities that are in disputes with ICE about how you deal with people that they're holding -- that they keep getting sued-

COHEN: They're part of the United States! You can't be in dispute with the federal government-

CUOMO: But they're not safe havens the way you're describing.

COHEN: They most certainly are safe havens.

CUOMO: They are not. It's about how they follow process-

COHEN: They will not turn them over, Chris. They will not turn them over-

CUOMO: They will. There's a legal process. There's a whole reason they got to this. There have been more people deported in the last six years than we'd had in the previous decade. [CNN, New Day, 7/13/15]

Former ICE Acting Director: “Not A Free Pass” In Those Jurisdictions. In a July 15 interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo, former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director John Torres explained the term “sanctuary city,” pointing out that there is no “free pass” for undocumented immigrants in those jurisdictions:

CHRIS CUOMO: The critics really came up with the moniker of “sanctuary city.” Do you think that is a fair definition? Meaning that any undocumented or illegal immigrant in a sanctuary city doesn't have to fear any type of detection, any type of law action against them?

JOHN TORRES: Well, from the aspect of perception, if the perception is you have no fear, then we've heard this a million times, then the perception becomes the reality.

CUOMO: But in your practice of what they do in these jurisdictions, is it a free pass?

TORRES: No, it is not a free pass. There are a number of people that get transferred over to ICE from different jurisdictions. But unfortunately some of those instances too where I've worked with police chiefs and sheriffs, they've said “hey look,” I've got to work with you. We've got to set this agreement. We don't want any publicity. We don't want it to be really known that we're cooperating with you and we have to figure out some sort of work-around agreement. [CNN, New Day, 7/15/15]