Immigration Reform Debate Heats Up in Nation's Capital
McGee, Jennifer, Nation's Cities Weekly
Comprehensive immigration reform is a top legislative priority for both Congress and the Bush Administration in 2006.
NLC has also named immigration reform as one of three top advocacy priorities for 2006 along with the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and telecommunications reform.
Approximately 11 million undocumented workers are currently residing in the United States. The increasing presence of the undocumented population is stimulating a vigorous debate among public officials at all levels of government.
In December, the House of Representatives passed the The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act (H.R. 4437) sponsored by Reps, James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.). H.R. 4437 is intended to aggressively reform immigration with a focus on border security and does not address reform in a comprehensive manner.
Several provisions in this bill violate the principals of federalism and place burdensome unfunded federal mandates on local governments.
Section 220 gives state and local police officers the authority to enforce federal immigration laws. NLC opposes this provision as it is an outright preemption of local laws. Such a mandate would divert local law enforcement personnel from their primary duty to protect the general public and would threaten the police department's relationships in the immigrant community.
Also troubling to cities is a provision that would block federal law enforcement funds from going to local governments that have enacted laws that expressly prohibit local law enforcement officers from informing the federal government of known illegal immigrants.
The funds in question are from the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), a federal program that reimburses local governments for detaining criminal aliens. SCAAP is not a grant program, it is a reimbursement program. Presently, the federal government is reimbursing state and local agencies three-cents on the dollar of their SCAAP costs.
Earlier this month President Bush eliminated SCAAP funding in his FY 2007 budget proposal. At about the same time, the President signed into law the reauthorization of the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) which included the reauthorization of SCAAP at $850 million for FY 2007. …