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Senator Ernst Votes to End Sanctuary Cities, Protect Americans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) released the following statement after voting to start Senate consideration of the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act and Kate’s Law. Senator Ernst also offered her newly introduced legislation, Sarah’s Law, as an amendment to these two bills, but the Senate failed to proceed to the underlying bills, and Sarah’s Law did not receive a vote.

“Reports indicate there are around 300 cities, counties, and states that can currently be considered ‘sanctuary jurisdictions.’ In an effort to prevent more tragedies like the untimely deaths of Kate Steinle and Sarah Root, we must promote cooperation between state and local law enforcement and federal immigration officials by ensuring that local law enforcement are protected from liability stemming from such cooperation. We must also do more to deter repeated illegal reentry into the United States – particularly by convicted felons. It is unacceptable for those who enter our country illegally, and repeatedly, to commit crimes and be released.

“These bills work to keep law-abiding, U.S. citizens safe. They clear the way for state and local cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security and stiffen the penalty for illegal immigrants who re-enter the county after deportation.

“While I am disappointed in the Senate’s failure to advance this commonsense legislation, I remain committed to seeking justice for the Steinle and Root families.”

Information on the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act:

  • The bill withholds certain federal funding from jurisdictions known as “sanctuary cities” that defy Department of Homeland Security (DHS) detainer requests or forbids the sharing of information with federal immigration officials.
  • Addresses state and local government concerns about potential liability by providing that local officials who comply with detainers are deemed an agent of DHS in regard to any action necessary to comply with a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) detainer. Accordingly, any lawsuit filed on the basis of an erroneous immigration detainer is brought against DHS and not state or local law enforcement.
  • However, state and local law enforcement remains liable for any illegal action outside of compliance with an immigration detainer. The bill moreover preserves an individual’s right to sue for violations of their civil or constitutional rights.
  • Does not affect a jurisdiction’s ability to have a policy providing that victims or witnesses of crimes will not be reported to federal immigration officials.

Information on Kate’s Law:

  • The bill increases the penalties for illegal reentry into the United States by:

o   Increasing the maximum criminal penalty for illegal reentry from two to five years.

o   Creating a new penalty of up to 10 years for any person who has been denied admission or deported three or more times and then illegally reenters the country.

o   Creating a five-year mandatory minimum for anyone convicted of illegal reentry, who (1) had an aggravated felony prior to removal, or (2) has been convicted of illegal reentry twice before.

Information on Sarah’s Law:

  • On June 29, 2016, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), along with Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Ben Sasse (R-NE), introduced Sarah’s Law, legislation to honor Sarah Root, an Iowan who was killed earlier this year by a drunk driver in the country illegally. ICE thereafter declined to detain the individual.
    • Sarah’s Law requires ICE to take custody of an individual who is in the country illegally and is charged with a crime resulting in the death or serious bodily injury of another person.


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