WASHINGTON – Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) warned that the sanctuary city bill passed in the House of Representatives could cause a terrorist attack to occur in New York City.
Espaillat joined other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) to express opposition to the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act” (H.R. 3003), which would crack down on localities that do not fully cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and “Kate’s Law” (H.R. 3004), which would penalize migrants who attempt to re-enter the U.S. illegally after being deported with up to 20 years in prison. Both bills passed the House today.
According to the White House, H.R. 3003 would “restrict” the “eligibility to receive certain Department of Justice or Department of Homeland Security grants” for cities and states “determined to be in violation of federal law.”
Espaillat predicted that H.R. 3003 would have a “chilling effect” in local communities if it became law.
“People will go into hiding. People will not come forward to report crimes, and if we begin to deny funding to cities across the United States, a city like New York, who experienced 9/11, which has been the safest biggest city in the country since 9/11 because of the federal funding that we got to combat terrorism, providing for training, equipment, overtime pay for law enforcement, we will be allowing terrorists to come in and attack us again,” Espaillat said at a press conference today on Capitol Hill.
“So this is a travesty. This is a lie. We’ve been hijacked and bamboozled by Donald Trump and we should all stand up against this,” he added.
Espaillat described sanctuary cities as places that allow families to stay together regardless of immigration status without “fear” rather than places that harbor illegal immigrants with criminal records.
“It is a safety net for people that are part of our family – they take care of our children, they wash our dishes, they take care of our elderly, they pick our crops,” he said.
Espaillat argued that both bills are an example of the GOP “misguiding” the nation.
“I’m not saying all of his followers are racist, but all of the racists in the country follow him and they have peddled this erroneous vision that immigrants are criminals,” he said. “We all oppose any violent criminals not being arrested. We want them to be arrested and do their time in jail and go back to wherever they came from.”
Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) echoed Espaillat’s comments, arguing that H.R. 3003 would put Americans in danger by stripping federal funding from sanctuary cities like Los Angeles.
“You’re talking about taking away funding from cities that rely on these funds to protect our country from terrorism, and you think about incidents like 9/11,” she said.
“These big cities, like mine in Los Angeles, and New York are targets. Imagine taking away their funding because they don’t want to become immigration officers and what that does – that puts us in a lot more harm than what we are looking at,” she added.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) argued that “Kate’s Law” would have done “absolutely nothing” to prevent the death of Kate Steinle; the man accused of shooting her, who is still awaiting trial, was living illegally in San Francisco after multiple previous deportations. A few months before the shooting, the San Francisco Police Department had released her suspected killer, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, despite a request from ICE to keep him in custody for re-entering the country illegally.
Gutierrez said he opposes “Kate’s Law” because it would punish migrants who try to cross the border illegally to reunite with family members.
“Hundreds of thousands of moms and dads have been deported and separated from their American citizen children, and now when they come back to their American citizen children and come back after being deported, guess what this bill does? It says send them to jail for 20 years for trying to come back and raise their children,” he said.
Gutierrez also said he advised an 11-year-old student not to open the front door of his family’s home if an ICE officer knocks.
“Last Monday, I was at Nixon Elementary School. This little boy, a fifth-grader, 11 years old, asked, he said, ‘Congressman, if immigration knocks on my door, do I have to open the door because my Dad doesn’t have papers?’ I told him, ‘no, you don’t have to open up the door unless he has a warrant.’ And then I got into a conversation with 11-year-old fifth-graders about what constitutes a warrant – that’s where we’re at in America,” he said at the Hispanic Caucus press conference.
“And what do they want to do today? They want to make sure that my Chicago police, the L.A. police, every police and every jurisdiction that says we don’t want to be immigration agents and we don’t want to be knocking on those doors of fifth-graders across this country to take away their moms and dads and make them into enforcement agents, and it’s wrong,” he added.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (R-Texas) said both bills are “anti-immigrant” measures. He speculated that Republicans are pushing the legislation through Congress to distract from the healthcare and tax reform debates.
“They’ve failed to do healthcare. They’ve failed to do tax reform,” he said.