CHANGE OF VOTE -- (Senate - October 16, 2007)
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Mr. VITTER. Madam President, I rise to strongly urge all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join in support of Vitter amendment No. 3277. We will be voting on that amendment shortly.
This is a commonsense, straightforward amendment, reasonable in nature, which is supported by the vast majority of the American people. It is supported because it makes good common sense. It says very simply that everyone at all levels of government should be part of the solution and should cooperate fully with Federal immigration enforcement officials and should not refuse to cooperate, refuse to give information to those officials trying to do a very difficult job, and in those cases where local jurisdictions do not properly cooperate with Federal officials, as is currently mandated by Federal law, then those local jurisdictions will not get COPS funds. It is pure and simple. This is present law. So we tell local and State jurisdictions: Please follow present Federal law. And if you don't, don't expect to get money from the Federal Government, particularly in the area of COPS funding.
Again, I think it is very important to make clear that we are not changing present Federal law with this amendment; we are simply trying to enforce it.
In 1996, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, and section 642(a) of that legislation, now over 10 years old, is very clear:
Federal, State, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.
It couldn't be clearer, and it couldn't be simpler. That is present Federal law and has been for over 10 years--cooperate and share information. You cannot prohibit that basic, straightforward, reasonable sharing of information. Our Federal authorities have a very difficult job to do, and they can never get it done without reasonable minimal help from other law enforcement officials around the country.
The problem is there are these so-called sanctuary cities or sanctuary jurisdictions that have made it perfectly clear they are going to ignore that Federal law. They are going to break that Federal law. They are not going to cooperate in any way with the enforcement of our immigration laws. They are going to be part of an active movement to flaunt them, to not enforce those laws, and to frustrate the enforcement of those laws.
Not surprisingly, this is perhaps clearest coming out of San Francisco. There the mayor said very clearly--and this was just this past April in response to the Federal authorities' raid on an Oakland business, where they arrested 13 foreign nationals who entered the country illegally--the San Francisco mayor said:
I will not allow any of my department heads or anyone associated with this city to cooperate in any way, shape, or form with these raids. We are a sanctuary city, make no mistake about it.
One of his counterparts in the area, the mayor of Richmond, CA, just outside of San Francisco, actually went a little further, if you can believe that, if you can believe it is possible to go further. This past February, he said:
I really don't believe that any of our residents should be living in a climate of fear and terror like this. People have no real criminal behavior at all and have been unjustly placed under arrest.
That was in response to a raid by Federal officials.
So the San Francisco mayor said: We are not going to have anything to do with it, we are going to do everything we can to frustrate the Federal law. The Richmond mayor went beyond that and said: We don't think Federal immigration officials should be doing their job.
I think that is wrong.
This has reached a ridiculous level, Madam President. It is no surprise to the American people that we are not enforcing our laws when they hear local jurisdictions acting like this, flaunting the law, ignoring clear Federal law that has been on the books for over 10 years. If we have any chance to rein in illegal immigration and enforce the rule of law, Federal officials need reasonable help. That is what it will take to enforce our immigration laws. And in enforcing our immigration laws, we will make this country safer.
I clearly, strongly disagree with these arguments that somehow this is going to lessen public safety. This will increase public safety as we enforce our laws. Surely, surely some horrible and tragic incidents from the past several months should make this clear.
For instance, in Virginia Beach, 17-year-old Allison Kunhardt and 16-year-old Tessa Tranchant were killed when their car was struck by a drunk driver who happened to be an illegal alien. Now, that is tragic enough, but that illegal alien had multiple prior convictions for drunk driving. He had gone through the local criminal justice system multiple times, and guess what--not once had that been reported to immigration officials. If it had, and if immigration officials had properly acted, that person would have been off the street, unable to kill through his vehicle.
Similarly, in Newark, NJ, some college students were horribly and tragically shot execution style by Jose Carranza. Carranza was out on bail awaiting trial on two separate felonies. He was also in this country illegally. So not only was he out on bail under questionable circumstances, but if immigration officials had been notified and if they had acted properly, he could have been under arrest and/or out of the country. Instead, three completely innocent college students were executed and are dead today.
This does have everything to do with the rule of law. It has everything to do with public safety. It has everything to do with getting hold of our safety and immigration laws and everyone working cooperatively in the right spirit, in the right vein, and following the present Federal law to do just that.
I would also note that an identical amendment to this was passed quite easily--by voice vote, as a matter of fact--in the House of Representatives.
Let's act on common sense, let's be reasonable, and let's enforce Federal law that has been on the books for
over 10 years now. Let's adopt this amendment.
Madam President, I reserve the remainder of my time.
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Mr. VITTER. Madam President, I wish to use 2 minutes of my remaining time and reserve the rest.
We are talking about present Federal law over 10 years old. Are we going to enforce it or are we going to flout it? Let's not kid ourselves. We have all these arguments about law enforcement. I think everyone paying attention to this debate realizes it comes down to whether you think it is a problem, a big deal, for folks to be here in this country illegally. The other side of the argument doesn't even like to use the term being in the country illegally. They talk about ``status issues'' and all of this other politically correct language for the fact that folks are in the country illegally, having broken the law to get here, and consistently are breaking the law to stay here.
That is what the disagreement is about. That is what the debate is about. It is obvious, when you look at the fervor, the political fervor with which so many of these sanctuary cities proclaim their sanctuary status. It is a cause celebre because they basically do not think it is a problem for these folks to come to the country illegally and stay illegally.
As I said, look at this quote from the mayor of Richmond, CA. He is criticizing the Federal authorities, the immigration authorities, for doing their job enforcing Federal law.
The American people are watching. They know the fundamental question is: Are we going to get serious with the problem? Are we going to get serious with enforcement? I suggest this amendment is an excellent way to start.
I reserve the remainder of my time.
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Mr. VITTER. Madam President, in closing, let me address one specific point the distinguished Senator from Maryland raised. I think she is giving the wrong impression to suggest that the Vitter amendment, or anything else in Federal law, places some affirmative duty on local or State law enforcement to all of a sudden take up the responsibility of Federal immigration officials. They have no duty to start enforcing Federal law and use up their budget and their time affirmatively enforcing Federal immigration law.
But what we are saying, and what present Federal law says, is these jurisdictions cannot establish a set policy that absolutely prohibits that sort of communication and information sharing with Federal authorities. That is exactly what these sanctuary cities, sanctuary jurisdictions, have done. It is a left political cause celebre to proclaim yourself a sanctuary city and actually work to frustrate Federal law.
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