The AP reports today on an amendment (H.Amdt.968) that was passed in the House’s version of the FY 2007 appropriations bill for DHS that would potentially block cities from receiving certain types of federal funding, including DHS and DOJ grants, if they are circumventing federal laws that require law enforcement officers to report immigration violators to federal authorities:
Cities and states that aid illegal immigrants without reporting them to the authorities risk losing millions of dollars in homeland security and other federal money under two spending bills approved last month by the House.
The bills, which fund the departments of Homeland Security, Commerce, State and Justice, were amended to refuse federal money to any city or state with policies that prohibit local government officials from alerting federal authorities about possible immigration law violators.
House lawmakers say several cities and states allow criminal suspects to escape deportation because local officials, including police officers, turn a blind eye to the immigration law passed in 1996.
It is unclear what will happen to the immigration provisions when the spending measures are considered in the Senate.
But the prospect outraged New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who raised the issue during a Senate immigration hearing in Philadelphia this week, threatening “one heck of a battle” if Congress cuts off homeland security and justice dollars.
Bloomberg said New York City protects residents’ confidentiality when they report a crime or seek medical care or education.
The city’s policy complies with the 1996 law, he said. But he said some members of Congress have questioned it and asked for the Justice Department to review all state and local policies.
“We believe the review will validate our approach,” Bloomberg told the Senate Committee. “But whatever the findings, let me be clear: The way to deal with this issue is not – not – by reducing the safety and security of our nation.”
I agree with the underlying rationale of this amendment; I don’t think that it’s right for cities to maintain so-called “sanctuary” policies in contravention of federal immigration law. But I strongly disagree with using homeland security grant funding as a cudgel in this dispute, in the same vein by which I’m vehemently opposed to any effort to use homeland security as a bargaining chip for any other political goal or objective. Homeland security funding is too important to be used as leverage in a dispute like this: it should be off the table.