Lawmaker Pushes holder On ‘Sanctuary Cities’

Lawmaker pushes Holder on 'sanctuary cities'
Double standard charged in Justice's Arizona lawsuit

By Kara Rowland
The Washington Times, July 21, 2010

Frustrated at the Justice Department's lawsuit against Arizona's new immigration law, a Republican congressman introduced a bill demanding that the attorney general also take action against so-called 'sanctuary cities,' which discourage immigration enforcement.

Rep. Duncan Hunter's bill is the latest step as lawmakers seek to inject themselves into the debate and force their colleagues to take a stand on the contentious Arizona law. One of those moves failed Wednesday when Republicans tried, but failed, to have the Senate vote on blocking the government's lawsuit against Arizona.

Mr. Hunter's bill, for which he started soliciting co-sponsors Wednesday, would stop the Justice Department from pursuing its lawsuit against Arizona until Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. submits a plan to Congress outlining how he would bring sanctuary cities into compliance with federal law.

A majority of voters tell pollsters they back Arizona's law, and Mr. Hunter said the government overstepped its bounds by singling out a state he says is only trying to help federal authorities meet their responsibility to enforce the country's borders.

'The federal government is being inconsistent,' said the lawmaker, whose district includes San Diego and other areas just north of the California-Mexico border. 'They're saying we don't want a patchwork of laws, and that's why they're suing Arizona, but at the same time they allow sanctuary cities … to passively impede federal law.'

Tracy Schmaler, a spokeswoman for Mr. Holder, did not respond to a request seeking comment Wednesday. But in a statement to The Washington Times last week, Ms. Schmaler said the Arizona law and sanctuary ordinances are not the same.

'There is a big difference between a state or locality saying they are not going to use their resources to enforce a federal law, as so-called 'sanctuary cities' have done, and a state passing its own immigration policy that actively interferes with federal law,' she said. 'That's what Arizona did in this case.'

In a subsequent e-mail, Ms. Schmaler said the DOJ would review new local ordinances to determine if they conflict with federal immigration law, which requires states and localities to cooperate with federal authorities on immigration laws. But she was silent on existing policies.

The Arizona law, which goes into effect July 29 unless a court blocks it, requires authorities to inquire about the legal status of any detained person about whom they have reasonable suspicion might be in the country illegally. The law as amended specifically prohibits using race or ethnicity as a reason for suspicion.

Arizona officials have said the federal government has failed in its responsibility to police the borders, and the state is experiencing a crime wave spurred by illegal immigration. They have said the new law is meant to fill in the gaps in enforcement.