Senate has no excuse for ignoring the public's will to deport criminal aliens
© Getty

News flash: Not many people want to see their state and local governments shield criminal aliens from deportation.

It shouldn’t really require polling for politicians in Washington (or in state and local government for that matter) to figure this out, but apparently it does. Numerous state and local governments, in a fit of pique over stepped up immigration enforcement by the Trump administration, are doubling down on their efforts to protect illegal aliens, including dangerous criminal aliens, from being removed from the country. Sanctuary-policies-on-steroids, enacted, or soon to be enacted, in places like Illinois and California, go to extraordinary lengths to thwart Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from removing all but the most heinous of foreign criminals.

In June, the House of Representatives took steps to rein in dangerous sanctuary policies that obstruct ICE’s ability to carry out its duties. The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act (H.R. 3003) codifies ICE’s detainer authority — which allows state and local governments to hold immigrant offenders for 48 hours until ICE can take custody — withholds targeted federal funding from sanctuary jurisdictions, and gives victims (or their families) of criminal aliens who are released under sanctuary policies the right to sue those jurisdictions.

Rather than notching a rare legislative achievement for his party and striking a blow for common sense, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate passes 0B defense bill Overnight Health Care: New GOP ObamaCare repeal bill gains momentum Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea MORE (R-Ky.) has seemingly chosen to file it in his ever-growing folder of popular legislation the Republicans promised, but refuse to fight for. According to polls in ten battleground states that will determine control of the Senate after the mid-term elections, one of the few things voters disapprove of more than McConnell’s performance as majority leader would be the Senate’s failure to enact H.R. 3003.

 

According to polling conducted by Zogby Analytics in ten states with hotly contested Senate races in 2018 – Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin – voters overwhelmingly support the key provisions of the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act. Polling was also conducted in McConnell’s very own Kentucky.

In these eleven states, 77.6 percent of voters support the bill’s requirement that police and sheriff’s departments comply with detainer requests from ICE rather than release deportable aliens in their custody back into the community. Additionally, 73.4 percent of respondents agree that victims of crimes committed by aliens who were released as a result of sanctuary policies should have the right to sue those jurisdictions.

Support for H.R. 3003 cuts across all political, racial, ethnic, and socio-economic lines. In other words, there is no constituency for protecting criminal aliens and keeping them in the country, outside of a few vocal fringe groups. As such, McConnell has nothing to lose and everything to gain by bringing this bill to the floor of the Senate a soon as possible.

No doubt the Senate Democratic leadership, which has abandoned any pretense of support for any kind of immigration enforcement, will attempt to block the bill. But even the politically savvy Democratic leader, Sen. Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill This week: Senate wrapping up defense bill after amendment fight Cuomo warns Dems against cutting DACA deal with Trump MORE (D-N.Y.), would have a tough time holding his caucus in line to preserve policies that protect deportable criminals. If Schumer has any hope of becoming majority leader, Democrats must first hang on to the ten seats they now hold in these swing states.

If McConnell can wrest enough Democratic votes to break a filibuster on the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, he will enjoy his moment of accomplishment in the Rose Garden as the president signs a popular piece of Republican legislation into law. If he can’t, then the Republican challengers to the Senate’s ten most vulnerable Democrats will have the gift that keeps on giving. What candidate for office would not want to run ads accurately charging that the incumbent blocked legislation making it easier to remove criminal aliens and hold local governments accountable for the criminals they put back on the streets? And what incumbent, regardless of party affiliation, wants to explain to constituents why protecting foreign criminals is a higher priority than protecting public safety?

Enacting the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act is just plain good public policy. State and local police should cooperate with ICE the same way that they cooperate with any other law enforcement agency. State and local governments should be accountable for policies that endanger public safety. A criminal alien sent home is better than a criminal alien put back on the street.

If that’s not persuasive enough for the Senate leadership, it’s what the voters want.

Ira Mehlman is media director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a nonprofit group that aims to promote legal immigration.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.