Barletta: California Bill Turns Entire State into Sanctuary

Aug 29, 2016
Press Release
Hazleton Law Struck for Doing Job of Federal Gov’t, CA Bill Actually Impedes Feds

WASHINGTON – Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) today drew attention to pending legislation in California’s state legislature which would impede the ability of federal immigration officials to do their jobs, effectively turning the entire state into a “sanctuary jurisdiction” resistant to enforcing federal immigration law.  The California origin of the bill evokes the memory of Kate Steinle, the 32-year-old woman who was killed in 2015 by an illegal immigrant who was a seven-time felon who had been deported at least five times.  Additionally, the legislation recalls the legal battle over Hazleton’s illegal immigration ordinance, which by contrast, sought to enforce immigration laws rather than impede them.  Barletta called on President Obama’s Department of Justice to prepare a case challenging the law in court at the appropriate time.

California lawmakers are considering AB 2792, the misleadingly named TRUTH Act (Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and Holds Act), which allows illegal immigrants being held in custody to refuse to be interviewed by agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Both chambers of the California legislature have passed versions of the bill, with the Assembly now considering the Senate version.  The bill is expected to be sent to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown for his consideration soon.  Barletta noted that it is tragically ironic that California is the place of origin of the legislation, since it is where Kate Steinle was murdered while walking with her father on a pier in San Francisco on July 1, 2015.

“It is sad that California is the home of this legislation that would make it even more difficult for ICE agents to do their jobs and enforce federal immigration law,” Barletta said.  “We already knew that various jurisdictions actively excused illegal behavior, but this would turn the entire state into a giant sanctuary where illegal immigrants know they can enjoy protection.  The result would be a complete dishonoring of the memory of Kate Steinle, who was gunned down by a criminal illegal immigrant – a chronic offender repeatedly granted freedom by local officials who scoffed at federal immigration laws and procedures.”  

Barletta also pointed out that while he was mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, his ordinance to strip the business licenses of employers or landlords who knowingly hired or rented to illegal immigrants was blocked in court because it enforced immigration laws, which were deemed by the courts to be the responsibility of the federal government.  California’s pending legislation, inversely, actually inhibits the ability of federal agents to do their jobs under existing immigration law. 

“The scenario in California turns our Hazleton experience completely on its head,” Barletta said.  “Our Illegal Immigration Relief Act sought to solve the problems caused by the federal government’s failure to adequately enforce federal law, but we were stymied by judges who claimed we were encroaching on federal responsibilities.  Now here is California actually trying to block ICE agents from doing their jobs.  It defies explanation how Hazleton’s law could be blocked, while this California law could be allowed to proceed.”      

Barletta urged the Obama Justice Department to prepare a lawsuit to block the implementation of the bill once it becomes law, using the supremacy of federal law as grounds.

“This will be a test of the willingness of the Obama Administration to stand for the rule of law,” Barletta said.  “If immigration laws mean anything at all, they will be preparing action to stop this law right now.”

Barletta has personal experience with tragedies involving the victims of illegal immigrants.  When Barletta was mayor of Hazleton in 2006, a local man, Derek Kichline, was murdered by an illegal immigrant who had been released in New York, another sanctuary jurisdiction.  Barletta was also moved by meeting the parents of 20-year-old murder victim Carly Snyder of Northumberland County, who was stabbed 37 times by an illegal immigrant from Honduras in 2005.    

In October 2015, Democrats in the U.S. Senate blocked legislation that would have addressed sanctuary cities.  The House had passed similar legislation, which withheld certain law-enforcement funding and grants.  There are now 340 such sanctuary cities in the United States, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.  The bill, which needed 60 votes in the Senate to advance, failed by a vote of 54-to-45, largely along party lines.

In July 2015, Barletta had reintroduced a bill – tougher than even the House version – that he authored in 2011 as his first piece of Congressional legislation, the Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Act (H.R. 3002), which would prohibit any federal funding for a minimum period of one year to any state or local government which has a policy or law that prevents them from assisting immigration authorities in enforcing federal immigration law.  A state or local government would only regain federal funding eligibility after the Attorney General certifies that its laws and policies are in compliance with federal immigration law.

“I simply do not understand the mindset of people who repeatedly side with those who break the law, against the law-abiding,” Barletta said.  “Time and time again, we hear the voices that rise up in support of illegal immigrants, including those who habitually break our laws and commit further crimes and acts of violence.  But over and over, the voices of the victims of those crimes have fallen on deaf ears.  We cannot let California continue that trend.”