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The Coleman Amendment to the Immigration Reform Act was defeated on Thursday in a close 49-48 vote. It would have addressed the problem of “sanctuary cities.”
Currently, a number of cities throughout the nation are using a loophole to get around Sec. 642 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996 by instituting ordinances forbidding local law enforcement to even ask the question as to whether a person is in the U.S. lawfully, thereby evading their legal responsibility to report their suspicions to the federal government.
Senator Coleman’s legislation will not require local law enforcement to use their own resources to enforce federal immigration laws. Moreover, it does not require local law enforcement to conduct immigration raids or act as federal agents. Senator Coleman’s bill will simply give law enforcement officers the ability to inquiry about a person’s immigration status during their routine investigations, and in turn report their findings to the appropriate Federal authorities though already-established channels, as they are currently required to do by law.
Both of my senators voted against this amendment. Here’s the e-mail I sent them:
I’m writing to express my disappointment in your vote against the Coleman Amendment to the Immigration Reform Act.
I can understand that state and local law enforcement may not have the resources to enforce federal laws against illegal immigrants. But the Coleman amendment required nothing of the sort. When state and local officials bar police officers from inquiring about the immigration status of people they are ticketing or arresting, who is served?
I have read once too often about terrorists living in the United States illegally being detained on more than one occasion and no inquiry into their immigration status being made. This must stop.
If the amendment as offered had been incorporated into the Immigration Reform Act you support, and that Act were to become law, then the only people who would have any reason to fear would be immigrants who refuse to apply for legal status. And aren’t they the people we should be most concerned about?
By the way, I would be interested to know which other federal laws you encourage state and local officials to not only ignore, but to actively undermine. If this is a unique case, please explain why it should be. If there are others, perhaps you might consider upholding the Constitution in the future.
Thank you for your time,
Blah, blah, blah…
UPDATED: 5/30: I received a reply from Senator Lieberman’s office. It spoke generally about the immigration reform bill, but did not address my concern about the specific amendment Senator Lieberman opposed.
UPDATED: 6/14: Senator Dodd’s office replied today. You can tell he’s running for president, because reading his response you couldn’t even tell if he was for or against the immigration bill, never mind the Coleman amendment. But he’s very concerned, and grateful for my input.