Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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Grassley Presses Forward with Legislation to Crackdown on Sanctuary Cities Harboring Criminals

Jul 21, 2015

WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley today is introducing legislation to hold accountable sanctuary jurisdictions that are harboring illegal immigrants who have criminal records.

Grassley’s legislation would withhold federal funding from sanctuary jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate on criminal aliens and other high priority individuals.  The bill would also increase the amount of time, from up to 2 years to a mandatory 5 years, an illegal immigrant must spend in jail for re-entry after deportation.  

“No more people should die at the hands of those who ignore our immigration laws and commit crimes. No more families should have to go through what our hearing witnesses have experienced,” Grassley said. “Sanctuary jurisdictions are giving a free pass to illegal immigrants who have repeatedly violated this country’s laws and are now going on to commit other serious, violent offenses.”

Grassley’s bill comes as he convened a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing focusing on how the Obama administration’s immigration policies and practices are hurting American families.  The Committee heard powerful testimony from a number of relatives who have lost loved ones as a direct result of the administration’s failure to deport criminals or its tolerance of sanctuary policies.  

The Improving Cooperation with States and Local Governments and Preventing the Catch and Release of Criminal Aliens Act of 2015:

Limits Federal Funding for State and Local Jurisdictions  
If any jurisdiction does not cooperate with federal officials with respect to criminal aliens or other aliens deemed to be a priority for removal by the Secretary, then jurisdictions will not be considered for certain federal dollars.  

    SCAAP:  The State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) is a reimbursement program designed to provide federal assistance to states and local jurisdictions that incur costs for incarcerating undocumented criminal aliens being held as a result of local convictions. This program is administered by the Department of Justice.  
    Second Chance Act:  This grant program is aimed at improving outcomes for people returning to communities after incarceration.  Funding supports strategies and services designed to reduce recidivism by improving outcomes for people returning from prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities. This program is administered by the Department of Justice.
    Other Funds:  The Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General are also authorized to withhold other law enforcement related funding.   
The funds that are not allocated to sanctuary jurisdictions are reallocated equally among other jurisdictions that do cooperate and to existing federal grant programs that aid victims of violence.

Increases Transparency and Accountability
In order to ensure that the American people know which jurisdictions are providing safe harbor to criminal aliens and ignoring ICE detainers, the bill would require the executive branch to publish a list of sanctuary jurisdictions on their websites.  They would also be required to list how many detainers are issued and how many are not being honored by jurisdictions across the country.

Increases Penalty for Reentry by Removed Alien
Under current law, individuals who re-enter or attempt to re-enter the country after being denied, excluded, deported, or removed face up to 2 years in prison and/or a fine.  This section would increase the penalty and make it a mandatory minimum 5 year prison sentence in addition to a possible fine.  This section is aimed at individuals who ignore our laws time and again.
 
For the purposes of this legislation, criminal aliens are those who are arrested or convicted of an aggravated felony under the immigration laws, those who are inadmissible or removable for criminal activity, and those who have been arrested, charge or convicted of drunk driving.  



Prepared Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
Hearing on “Oversight of the Administration’s Misdirected Enforcement Policies:
Examining the Impact and Honoring the Victims”
Tuesday, July 21, 2015


This committee continues to honor its pledge to conduct oversight over the implementation of the laws Congress has passed as well as the policies and practices of the Executive Branch.  Today, we will focus on how this administration’s immigration policies and practices are hurting American families.  The Committee will hear powerful testimony from a number of relatives who have lost loved ones as a direct result of the administration’s failure to deport criminals or its tolerance of sanctuary policies.  

Let me begin by extending a special welcome to our witnesses, especially family members of victims. I hope you will accept our deepest sympathies for the losses you have each suffered. Thank you very much for your willingness to share your stories, and for paying tribute to those who, though no longer with us in body, are surely with us in spirit in this room.  

Today, we will honor Josh, Kate, Dennis, Danny, Grant, and many others whose lives were tragically cut short because of this administration’s lax immigration policies.  We had many families and relatives who wanted to testify today, but unfortunately, we had to turn them away because we were limited on time and space.  However, we welcome their testimony for the record and encourage them to commemorate their loved ones with stories and written letters to the committee.  

We will examine the administration’s policies from the top down.  We’ll look at how federal benefits are being granted to deportable criminals by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, why criminals are being released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and how enforcement of the laws can be better achieved.  

We’ll look at how we can improve cooperation between the government agencies here today.  And, we’ll look into how we can improve cooperation between the federal government and states and local law enforcement agencies.

We’ll look at sanctuary jurisdictions and try to understand why policies protecting criminal aliens are in place.

In the past few weeks, we have learned that there are thousands of detainers placed each year by federal agents on undocumented immigrants with criminal records that are ignored.  

According to government data, between January and September of 2014, there were 8,811 declined detainers in 276 counties in 43 states, including the District of Columbia.

Of the 8,811 declined detainers, 62 percent were associated with over 5,000 individuals who were previously charged or convicted of a crime or presented some other public safety concern.

And nearly 1,900 of the released offenders were arrested for another crime after being released by a sanctuary jurisdiction.  

This is disturbing – not only to me, but to most Americans. There is no good rationale for non-cooperation between the feds and state and local law enforcement.  Public safety is needlessly and recklessly put at risk when state and local officials provide sanctuary to lawbreaking immigrants just to make a political point.  

The Obama administration, in too many cases, has turned a blind eye to enforcement, even releasing thousands of criminals at its own discretion, many of whom have gone on to commit serious crimes, including murder.  

The administration has also granted deferred action to criminal aliens who have committed heinous crimes after receiving this relief from deportation.  I have written to Secretary Johnson about four specific cases in which such individuals have received President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.  


One of those beneficiaries was a known gang member when he applied and received DACA, then went on to kill four people in North Carolina.  Another DACA recipient used his work authorization to gain employment at a popular youth camp in California, where he was recently arrested for child molestation, and distribution of child pornography.  I am still waiting for responses on some of these cases.  

Further, the administration has completely failed to do anything about sanctuary cities, all while challenging states that took a more aggressive approach to enforcing the immigration laws.

I recently sent a letter to Attorney General Lynch and Homeland Security Secretary Johnson about sanctuary cities.  I urged them to take control of the situation to ensure detainers are not ignored and undocumented individuals are safely transferred to federal custody and put into deportation proceedings.  I implored them to take a more direct role in the matter.  I have not received a response.

But, this isn’t a new issue for the Obama Administration.  I wrote to then-Secretary Napolitano and then Attorney General Holder in 2012, and asked them to intervene in Cook County, Illinois, another sanctuary jurisdiction.  Nothing happened.  In fact, since then, administration officials have publicly stated that they neither believe detainers have to be honored, nor that they even want them to be mandatory.  

Enforcing the immigration laws of the United States is not a voluntary or trivial matter.  Real lives are at stake. Things cannot continue this way.  

That is why I’m introducing legislation today that will hold sanctuary jurisdictions accountable.  It will require the Executive Branch to withhold certain federal funding if states or local law enforcement refuse to cooperate with the federal government in holding or transferring criminal aliens.  

My bill will require that state and locals cooperate on criminal aliens or risk losing law enforcement related grants that are distributed by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.

My bill will also require a mandatory minimum 5-year prison sentence in addition to a possible fine for individuals who enter the United States after having been deported.  Current law does not require prison time and caps the possible prison sentence at 2 years.  This section of my bill is aimed at individuals who ignore our laws time and again.  

No more people should die at the hands of those who break our laws just by being here. No more families should have to go through what our witnesses have experienced.

Again, I’d like to thank our witnesses for taking the time to be with us today.  Your strength and determination to change the unacceptable status quo won’t go unnoticed.

 

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