Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives or lower house of Congress Thursday pushed the approval of an immigration law that implies the violation of civil rights as it contemplates sanctions against local governments that do not cooperate with federal authorities in prying into the privacy of Hispanics suspected of being undocumented residents.
The law is aimed at punishing all the so-called “sanctuary cities” in the U.S. that have refused to abide by federal law in providing information regarding the status of all immigrants, undocumented or not.
The approval went through despite the White House statement that it would veto the law. The bill will now go to the Senate to be voted on, although it is unclear when they will debate the proposal.
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Congress approved the bill with 241 in favor and 179 against. Democrats objected to the bill saying it would hinder the trust of immigrants in local police, thus prompting them not to denounce any crimes, fearing they would be deported.
Map of sanctuary cities. (Source: Center for Immigration Studies)
Republicans presented the bill after the homicide earlier this month in San Francisco of Kathryn Steinle. She was allegedly killed by Mexican Juan Francisco Lopez, an undocumented migrant with a criminal record.
Republican lawmaker Duncan Hunter, who authored the bill, justified it by saying that local governments have the right to be opposed to federal law, but not to ignore it.
“Those who do not comply with federal law, will not receive federal funding,” he said.
The White House released a statement Thursday saying President Barack Obama would veto the law on the basis that it would put civil rights at risk by permitting local police to gather information about the immigration status of any person at any given moment.
The Major County Sheriff's Association and the Fraternal Order of Police are also opposed to the bill.
According to the Washington Post, the vote is a continuation of the Republican message on immigration and against sanctuary cities.
In order to garner further support in Congress, Republicans organized Senate Judiciary Committee hearings to listen to testimonies of relatives of those killed or allegedly killed by undocumented immigrants.
Sanctuary cities are cities that choose not to disclose to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or other federal agencies when undocumented immigrants are released from their custody.
Democrats argue that the sanctuary cities issue is a distraction by Republicans from the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
President Barack Obama has promised immigration reform and in fact late last year took executive action in favor of about 5 million undocumented immigrants. His order was later struck down by the U.S. federal court.