This vote was on killing an amendment by David Vitter, R-La., that would have prohibited grants from going to local police departments if those municipalities prohibit officers from asking people about their immigration status. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., made a motion that it be killed. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds the Commerce, Justice and State departments in fiscal 2010.
Under current law, law enforcement officials are required to share information they have obtained about illegal immigrants with federal authorities. However, many cities have circumvented this law by putting into place a “don’t ask, don’t tell” type system where law enforcement officers are prohibited from asking people about their immigration status. In this way there is no information to share.
“Nobody wants to make local law enforcement immigration enforcement. Nobody wants to place on them some affirmative duty to do the work of Federal immigration offices, which is significant. We are not trying to place that additional burden or some unfunded mandate on them. But existing Federal law does say they need to cooperate with Federal immigration enforcement. They can’t have an affirmative policy that when they arrest, for a local charge, somebody who is in the country illegally, they forget about that, turn their eye to it, and never notify Federal authorities,” Vitter said.
Opponents of the amendment argued that police officers need cooperation from citizens, including those here illegally, in order to solve crimes.
Menendez noted that this is not Vitter’s first time seeking to get this amendment passed, and that it failed last time.
“The Senate tabled this same amendment last year. The reason this body was wise enough to defeat it last year was because we understood that some of the toughest law enforcement officials in our country, from sheriffs to prosecutors, and a whole host of law enforcement officials in between, understand the cooperation of the communities essential in fighting crime. Senator Vitter’s amendment would deny moneys to at least 50 cities in a whole host of States represented by Members on both sides of the aisle,” Menendez said. He then moved to kill Vitter’s amendment.
By a vote of 61-38, the Senate voted to kill the amendment. All but one Democrat present voted to kill the amendment. All but three Republicans present voted against killing the amendment. The end result is that the motion to kill the amendment carried, and the bill went forward without language that would have denied grants to local police departments in cities that prohibit officers from asking people about their immigration status.