A coalition of Republican lawmakers this week introduced legislation that would block funding to sanctuary states that give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants — the latest indicator of a significant gap between Republicans and the Biden administration on illegal immigration.
Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn, Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Joni Ernest, R-Iowa, Steve Sained, R-Mont., Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Mike Braun, R-Ind. Introduced the “Stop Greenlighting Driver Licenses for Illegal Immigrants Act” which would end some Justice Department funding to states that have “sanctuary” policies.
Meanwhile Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., was introducing companion legislation in the House.
“No town in America is secure from criminals and terrorists if our borders aren’t policed and federal immigration laws aren’t fully enforced,” Blackburn said in a statement. “This country is governed by the rule of law. We should not reward illegal aliens with driver licenses when they fail to follow the proper legal process.”
Sanctuary policies bar local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration enforcement, particularly when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issue detainers — which are requests that an illegal immigrant being released from custody be transferred for deportation.
While proponents say they encourage otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants to work with police, opponents note the number of criminals who have been released back onto the streets to re-offend as a result of such policies.
Connected to those sanctuary policies, some states such as New York have passed laws to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, claiming it makes roads safer and is a boost to the economy.
The bill seeks to withhold money from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, which dispenses over $250 million a year to state and local criminal justice efforts. The Trump administration had attempted to deny that money to sanctuary cities, and faced a legal battle over the move.
The law would make states that issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants or refuse to share immigration enforcement information with the Department of Homeland Security ineligible for the money.
Even if the law was able to pass the House and Senate, it would be unlikely to be signed into law by President Biden, who has taken a radically different stance on immigration and illegal immigration to President Donald Trump and Republicans.
Biden has signed a number of executive orders reversing key Trump administration policies. He has halted construction of the border wall, reversed Trump-era travel bans and his administration has paused deportations for 100 days.
Next week he is expected to sign a number of immigration-related orders, including one that would establish a task force to reunify families separated at the border, and another to increase refugee admissions.
Separately he has proposed legislation that would grant a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants — although that bill also faces a difficult path to become law amid stiff Republican opposition.