A Republican-sponsored bill would strip up to 50 percent of Homeland Security funding from cities that bar police officers from asking about a person’s immigration status during routine encounters.
Minneapolis and St. Paul are among more than 30 major cities across the nation that have enacted ordinances barring police officers from checking immigration statuses. Police departments believe such questioning impedes their ability to help crime victims and get information from witnesses in the immigrant community, while it often leads to racial profiling.
The Accountability in Enforcing Immigration Laws Act of 2007, introduced Monday, would also make undocumented immigration a felony and force police to arrest undocumented immigrants during routine encounters.
In a statement on her website, the bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla., said: “When cities proclaim that they will not check immigration status, they essentially become a safe haven for not only out-of-status immigrants, but criminal aliens who have often committed violent atrocities in our country.”
“Sanctuary cities,” as Brown-Waite calls them, would automatically be penalized 25 percent of “non-emergency Homeland Security funding” but could lose up to 50 percent at the discretion of the secretary of Homeland Security Department (DHS).
People who manage DHS funds in Minneapolis and St. Paul said they don’t understand what the Congresswoman means by “non-emergency funds.”
Minneapolis received $1.4 million from DHS this year. St. Paul received about $10 million over the last five years, according to Tim Butler, director of emergency management.
Both cities use the funds for emergency preparedness, including training for “structural collapses,”-the bridge disaster for example-according to Matt Bower, project coordinator for Minneapolis.
“These funds are critical for things like equipments used during emergencies,” he said.
In addition to training, Butler said St. Paul uses the funds to buy “dual use equipments,” such as surveillance cameras and communication radios, which can also be used by law enforcement agencies for daily activity.
Under the Brown-Waite legislation, an “incentive through bonus program” would reward cities that choose to collaborate with immigration agencies by incarcerating undocumented immigrants.
The bill also calls for an annual immigration status check for airport employees and “critical infrastructure” staff.
Experts agree that the bill faces an uphill battle. Similar legislation has been proposed in the past but didn’t pass even under a Republican-controlled Congress. Democrats are generally reluctant to sign on to bills that seem inherently anti-immigrant.