WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) joined Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and eleven other colleagues in reintroducing the Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act, a bill that holds sanctuary jurisdictions accountable for jeopardizing public safety and for failing to comply with lawful detainer and release notification requests made by federal authorities.
 
The legislation creates a private right of civil action for the victims of sanctuary jurisdictions, allowing them to bring an action for compensatory damages against the sanctuary jurisdiction as a result of a violent crime committed by an illegal immigrant. Any sanctuary city or jurisdiction that refuses to waive its immunity as it relates to sanctuary-related civil action would be subject to the withholding of certain Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding.
 
The Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act is a direct response to the growing number of sanctuary jurisdictions across the nation that either have official sanctuary policies or are refusing to comply with detainer requests and release notifications from the Department of Homeland Security.
 
“If state and local public officials jeopardize the safety and security of the American people by refusing to comply with federal immigration law, they should be held to account by our citizens when such reckless endangerment leads to more violent crime. We are a nation of laws. Whether you are a citizen, immigrant or even a local government, disregarding those laws should carry consequences,” Grassley said.
 
In addition to Tillis and Grassley, the legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.).
 
Major provisions of the Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act of 2021:
 
Defining a “Sanctuary Jurisdiction”:
The legislation defines a sanctuary jurisdiction as any state or political subdivision (including a county or city) that has a statute, ordinance, policy, or practice that restricts a government official or entity from receiving or maintaining information about the immigration status of an individual, including refusing to comply with lawful detainer requests made by DHS or the notification of the release of an illegal immigrant. A jurisdiction would not be deemed a “sanctuary jurisdiction” based solely on policies where officials do not share information or comply with detainers for illegal immigrants who come forward as a victim or a witness to a criminal offense.
 
Establishing civil action for the victims or family members of crimes committed by illegal immigrants benefitting from a sanctuary policy:
The legislation establishes a private right of action for any individual, spouse, or child who is a victim of a violent crime or felony that was a result of a sanctuary jurisdiction failing to comply with a lawful request made by the Department of Homeland Security and refused to comply with a detainer or notify DHS about the release of an illegal immigrant.
 
Withholding grant funding for jurisdictions that refuse to comply with lawful requests:
The legislation requires any state or political subdivision of a state to waive immunity as it relates to sanctuary-related civil action as a condition of receiving Community Development Block Grant funds (CDBG) and certain Economic Development Administration grants. The failure to waive immunity on sanctuary-related civil action will result in the withholding of grants for public works, grants related to planning administrative expenses, and grants for training, research, and technical assistance.
 
Legislative text of the bill can be found HERE.