Michigan state Sens. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, and Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, are leading efforts urging Congress to pass immigration legislation aiming to cut funding for sanctuary cities and increase penalties on undocumented immigrants attempting to return to the United States. The resolutions passed through the House June 29 and was received in the Senate Sept. 10.
The bill, known as Kate’s Law or U.S. House Resolution 3004, increases penalties on immigrants who have been deported and are caught attempting to return to the United States. The law is named after Kate Steinle, a resident of San Francisco who was killed by a man who had been deported and re-entered the United States several times.
In a press release discussing the legislation, Schuitmaker stressed the resolution as critical to all American citizens.
“This man should never have been here and Kate should still be with her loved ones,” Schuitmaker said. “This was a senseless, devastating crime that could have and should have been prevented.”
Sanctuary cities are cities that, in general, refuse to cooperate with federal workers seeking to enforce federal immigration law, but federal guidelines or definitions remain ambiguous. Nearly 500 jurisdictions as of March claim to be sanctuary cities, a number steadily climbing since President Trump’s election in 2016.
Some feel sanctuary cities are a danger, and claim San Francisco’s sanctuary status made it possible for Kate Steinle’s murder to happen. According to the Harvard-Harris Poll, 80 percent of Americans do not support sanctuary cities. The poll, however, framed questions around violent crime instead of the non-violent law violations sanctuary cities often protect.
In the same press release as Schuitmaker, Colbeck stated he feels sanctuary cities should not be rewarded for defying the federal government.
“It makes no sense to financially reward government bodies that try to impede state and city employees from working with federal immigration authorities,” Colbeck said. “It should go without saying that public safety demands our police be allowed to report to immigration authorities and detain people who are here illegally.”
Supporters of sanctuary cities feel the cities offer necessary protection to immigrants and should be left untouched. They also feel that not questioning immigrants on their citizenship status builds a positive relationship between police and the community, and encourages community members to report crimes and assist in investigations
In addition, according to fact-checking site Politifact, the offences sanctuary cities deal with most are non-violent, with offences often as minor as a broken taillight. Often, policemen merely refrain from asking about immigration status, like when an immigrant happens to be a witness of a crime.
Public Policy junior Lauren Schandevel, communications director of the University of Michigan’s chapter of College Democrats, said she feels the legislation is largely reactionary.
“The event that sparked the incident is very tragic, but the way the president and current administration has used it to incite fear and bigotry is unacceptable,” she said.
Engineering sophomore Lincoln Merrill, publicity chair of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, shared his opinion on why he believes this legislation is an important bipartisan step towards immigration reform.
“I remember when this story came out,” he said. “It’s horrifying and sad, and I think this legislation is a huge step forward. We know immigration is a controversial topic, but when the illegal immigrants are criminals, you have to take action regardless of what your beliefs are.”
While Ann Arbor is not officially known as a sanctuary city, it has many policies in place to protect undocumented immigrants from federal agents. For example, city laws prevent the detainment of a person longer than the state and local charges compel, regardless of if there is a detainer request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Schandevel shared her concerns for the undocumented immigrants living in Ann Arbor.
“There’s some laws coming from the federal government that are harmful or detrimental to the livelihood of people that are marginalized anyways; it seems like needless violence and fear inciting,” Schandevel said. “I don’t want people to be afraid or for their livelihoods to be in jeopardy, especially people who are trying to work or send their kids to school and are trying to keep their heads down.”
While some, like Schandevel, believe this immigration legislation skips over law-abiding undocumented immigrants, others see the issue as more of a black-and-white concept.
Schuitmaker said local governments should be allowed to function outside of the federal government.
“This is not only a matter of public safety, but a matter of preserving the rule of law,” Schuitmaker said. “We cannot let local governments decide which federal laws they choose to follow.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said fixing America’s “broken” immigration system needs to be a more collaborative effort.
“Instead of tackling these challenges piecemeal in a partisan process, Congress must come together to achieve consensus on comprehensive immigration reform,” Dingell said.