Sanctuaries

Senate Blocks Immigration Crackdown Bill Backed by Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio

The issue of sanctuary cities is the latest front in the political war over immigration policy that has in recent years deepened the divide between immigrant-rights advocates and restrictionists.

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Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

An immigration crackdown bill co-sponsored by the two Hispanic-Americans running for president was blocked Tuesday in the Senate by Democrats.

The Republican-led bill pushed by Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida sought to impose new penalties, such as prison time for individual who illegally re-enter the U.S., as well as strip federal grants for “sanctuary jurisdictions” that don't cooperate with federal authorities on immigration enforcement. It was proposed by Senator David Vitter of Louisiana and a total of 14 co-sponsors.

The procedural vote to begin debate was 54 to 45, short of the 60 needed to defeat a filibuster. Two Democrats—Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia—supported the motion while one Republican—Mark Kirk of Illinois—opposed it.

The issue of sanctuary cities is the latest front in the political war over immigration policy that has in recent years deepened the divide between immigrant-rights advocates and restrictionists.

For Cruz, the bill was another opportunity to lead the charge against illegal immigration, an issue that animates the conservative base. After the vote, he called on Republican leaders to keep fighting and attach this bill to "must-pass" legislation.

“Defiance of our immigration laws is inexcusable,” the Texan said. “Sanctuary cities and the illegal reentry offenders that they harbor are a threat to the safety of the American people. And they must end now.”

For Rubio, co-sponsoring the measure was an opportunity to burnish his conservative credentials on a thorny issue on which many in the base distrust him—he sided with President Barack Obama on a bipartisan immigration bill 2013, and has since tread carefully on the topic.

Of the two other Republican presidential contenders in the Senate, Rand Paul of Kentucky voted for the bill, while Lindsey Graham of South Carolina did not vote.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, derisively nicknamed it the “Donald Trump Act” after the GOP presidential front-runner, who has launched inflammatory attacks on immigrants.

The White House threatened to veto the bill, fretting that it would "jeopardize the ability of State and local governments to receive Federal funding that is critical to their efforts to ensure public safety and to tackle serious problems facing their communities." It also argued that the legislation "would lead to mistrust between communities and State and local law enforcement agencies."

(Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Rand Paul voted against the bill.)

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