"˜Sanctuary Cities' Are Under Threat From Washington

A proposed bill would withhold hundreds of millions in federal funding from cities for not collaborating with immigration enforcement.

Protestors look on as they listen to a speech during an immigration reform demonstration in 2013 in San Francisco, California. (National Journal)

The House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that seeks to take away federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities that don't cooperate with immigration enforcement.

It passed 241-179, mostly along party lines.

The bill would threaten federal funding in places where law enforcement refuses to ask about a person's immigration status, or doesn't report detained undocumented immigrants.

Around the country, more than 200 cities, counties, and states are considered sanctuaries, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. Most are on the East and West Coasts, although many areas in Colorado and Iowa also offer sanctuary (here's a map).

The proposed change would add wording to the Immigration and Nationality Act that would force the federal government to withhold millions of dollars to cities, counties, or states that have willfully resisted thus far.

Just how much it might cost cities is debatable. But California GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter, who introduced the bill, told Fox News's Bill O'Reilly that it could cost California $40 million.

The bill is called the "Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act," but was dubbed the "Donald Trump Act" by Democratic leaders (a reference to Trump's harangue against Mexican immigrants, in which he called some of them rapists and murderers). It emerged during a debate on deporting criminals, revived after a woman was killed in San Francisco this month as she walked along a pier with her father. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who has been charged in the killing, has been deported five times and was previously accused of murder.

This week, Steinle's father, Jim Steinle, testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee. "Legislation should be discussed, enacted, or changed to take these undocumented immigrant felons off our streets for good," he said.

This is not the first time Hunter has introduced a bill like this. In fact, he did so in 2011, with a bill by the same name and with the same language, that would have accomplished the same goal. It didn't pass the House.

If the current bill does pass the Senate, President Obama already has said he'd veto it.

Lopez-Sanchez served a lengthy prison sentence after he reentered the country illegally. When he served his time, authorities transferred him to San Francisco for a decades-old drug charge. Authorities decided not to pursue that charge and released him, even though he was undocumented.

Those who oppose the bill say not requiring law enforcement to investigate a person's immigration status helps build relationships in areas with large immigrant communities. Another argument is that the bill might prevent an undocumented immigrant from reporting a crime.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti have come out against the bill. And yesterday, New York GOP Reps. Peter King and Dan Donovan issued a statement saying they disagree with the bill.

"Sadly, today's legislation only makes a bad situation worse by cutting off funds to the police officers who put their lives at risk to protect all of us. This legislation is fatally misguided, putting police officers and our constituents, including victims of domestic violence, at risk for the failed policies of City Hall. That is why we voted no," they wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union has come out against the bill. So have at least 144 other organizations. Studies find that immigrants are less likely than the native-born to be behind bars. They are also less likely to engage in criminal behavior. And even though immigration in the U.S. has doubled over the last two decades, the national crime rate has declined.