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Senate Democrats Block Bill Targeting Sanctuary Cities

Senate Democrats blocked legislation that would punish so-called sanctuary cities.

The largely party-line 54-45 vote failed to reach the 60 vote threshold required for the “Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act ” to advance to the Senate floor.

While Republicans mostly voted for the bill, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) voted with the Democrats against it and Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) voted with the GOP for the bill. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) was the only senator to not vote.

The legislation would restrict federal funds and grants to sanctuary cities and channel the funding to jurisdictions that comply with immigration authorities. It would also affirm local law enforcement’s right to comply with immigration officials and establish a mandatory minimum sentence for criminal immigrants convicted of illegally re-entering the U.S.

Democrats attacked the legislation as anti-immigrant. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) blamed GOP hopeful Donald Trump, who has highlighted the issue of illegal immigrant crime on the campaign trail, for the effort to take on sanctuary cities.

“This vile legislation might as well be called the Donald Trump Act, like the disgusting, outrageous language championed by Donald Trump. This legislation paints all immigrants as criminals and rapists,” Reid said on the Senate floor Monday.

The bill’s sponsor Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Republicans argued that the legislation is needed for public safety, as such jurisdictions put significant hurdles in the way of immigration enforcement’s efforts to apprehend criminal immigrants.

“Sanctuary cities are dangerous and counter-productive to both law enforcement efforts and reducing illegal immigration,“ Vitter said on the Senate floor.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a Republican presidential contender, argued that if the Senate Democrats would be choosing partisanship over the lives of innocent Americans if they blocked the legislation.

“If, as many observers predict, Democratic senators choose to value partisan loyalty to the Obama White House over protecting the lives of the children who will be murdered by violent criminal illegal aliens in sanctuary cities if this body does not act, if they value partisan loyalty over that, and if they vote on a party-line vote… that will provide a moment of clarity,” Cruz said Tuesday in advance of the vote.

Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate, urged Republican leadership to attach the bill to a “must pass” piece of legislation as a means to skirt a Democratic filibuster.

The issue of sanctuary cities became national news following the July murder of Kathryn Steinle allegedly at the hands of a multiple deportee illegal immigrant with a long rap sheet. The alleged shooter had been released from the custody of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department some three months before the shooting due to the pier city’s sanctuary policy of not complying with immigration detainers.

Earlier Tuesday the White House threatened to veto the bill if it passed, saying the administration “strongly opposes” it, instead favoring a comprehensive immigration plan that includes a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

The House passed legislation targeting sanctuary city funding earlier this year.

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