By JULIE CURTISAssociated PressStaff WritersAssociated PressWASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats are renewing calls for a sweeping bill to cut off federal funding to local police departments that shield undocumented immigrants from deportation, even though a Senate bill cleared the House in December with broad support.
The Judiciary Committee voted overwhelmingly Thursday to advance the bipartisan bill, which passed the full House with bipartisan support in late December.
The measure would cut $2.9 billion from local law enforcement and give the Justice Department more flexibility in enforcing immigration laws.
It would not change existing laws barring sanctuary cities.
A separate bipartisan bill introduced earlier this year that would make it harder to prosecute police officers who detain people without legal status is also headed for the House floor.
The Justice Department is also pushing a similar bill in the Senate.
“As Americans, we are united in saying that we must protect our borders and protect our communities from those who would break our laws,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
“The sanctuary cities have no place in our country.
The only sanctuary that exists in our nation is the sanctuary city.”
President Donald Trump has been a fierce critic of sanctuary cities and has repeatedly vowed to tear down their sanctuary policies, though he has been less outspoken about his executive order targeting sanctuary cities during the campaign.
The bill is also unlikely to pass the Senate, which has been struggling to pass its own version of a bill on immigration that does not require the Justice and Homeland Security Departments to enforce the law.
A similar bill failed last year.
The legislation would give the department more discretion to help local police enforce federal immigration laws and allow for the arrest of illegal immigrants who are arrested for crimes that they did not commit, such as minor traffic violations or minor crimes such as trespassing.
It also would end the sanctuary cities’ ability to block local officials from enforcing federal immigration law.
The department’s use of a federal court order to prosecute sanctuary cities would also be stopped.
The Justice Department already has jurisdiction over the immigration courts in California and New York, two states where Trump has criticized the federal courts.
The White House has said the bill will protect communities from illegal immigration, including the city of Houston, which recently lost its federal funding.