The White House vowed Thursday to veto a bill to punish sanctuary cities, instead calling on Congress to legalize illegal immigrants as the way to solve the problem of criminals who shouldn’t be on the streets.
The threat came just hours before the House was expected to pass a bill that would withhold money from states or localities that don’t abide by a federal law that requires them to cooperate when federal immigration authorities request help identifying illegal immigrants.
But the White House Office of Management and Budget said that “threatens the civil rights of all Americans.”
Sanctuary cities have become a target in the immigration debate after the July 1 murder of Kathryn Steinle, who was walking Pier 14 in San Francisco with her father when she was shot. The man implicated in the murder was deported five times before and had an extensive felony record, but had been released by San Francisco, rather than turned over to federal authorities for deportation, under its sanctuary policy.
Most congressional Republicans and some Democrats say the killing exposed a major problem with the way immigration laws are handled, with some jurisdictions limiting cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In the Steinle killing, ICE had requested being notified when San Francisco planned to release the suspect so he could be picked up without any hassle for the sheriff’s department, but the department refused, saying it’s policy wouldn’t allow it to give any information about the date and time.
Steinle’s father, Jim, is slated to testify later Thursday to the House about the killing. On Tuesday, at a separate hearing, he called for a law cracking down on sanctuaries, of which there are several hundred, including many major cities.
“The U..S has suffered a self-inflicted wound in the murder of our daughter by the hand of a person that should have never been on the streets in this country,” Mr. Steinle said.
The bill the House is considering Thursday would withhold grants paying for local police departments to hire more officers or to compensate them for holding illegal immigrants in their prisons and jails.
A top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who was mayor of San Francisco in the 1970s and 1980s, is also working on a crackdown bill in the Senate.