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Politics & Policy

Blackburn Proposes Bill to Ban Funding for States that Give Drivers’ Licenses to Illegal Immigrants

Sen. Marsha Blackburn asks a question on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 1, 2019. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Senator Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) announced on a conference call Wednesday that she was proposing a bill to block grant funding from the Department of Justice for local law enforcement in states with sanctuary policies that allow illegal immigrants to receive drivers’ licenses.

“When I look at the situation we have with immigration here in our country, I say let’s leave the system in better shape than we found it, because it’s a broken system,” Blackburn said. She echoed the passing of the Real ID Act after 9/11 as rationale for additional measures.

“Now, states are beginning to really get back to where they were before 9-11, that they are going to provide these,” Blackburn stated. “And we think it is important to file legislation that would prohibit these sanctuary entities and these entities that are refusing to comply with federal immigration law, to prohibit them from receiving taxpayer dollars through the grant programs over at DOJ.”

The “Stop Greenlighting Drivers’ Licenses for Illegal Immigrants” Act is co-sponsored by Kevin Kramer (R., N.D.), Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Joni Ertz (R., Iowa), Kelly Loeffler (R., Ga.), Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.V.), and Mike Rounds (R.,S.D.), while Representative Ken Buck (R., Colo.) will carry the bill in the House of Representatives.

The bill would ban federal funding through the DOJ’s Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants for local law enforcement in the 13 states and the District of Columbia which currently allow illegal immigrants to receive state-issued drivers’ licenses. On Tuesday, the Virginia legislature passed two different bills that would allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses in the state.

A similar measure was proposed by Justice Department under then-attorney general Jeff Sessions in 2017 to combat sanctuary policies, but federal judges in Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, and New York all subsequently ruled against the Trump administration.

The Tennessee Republican’s announcement comes after attorney general William Barr said Monday that the Trump administration was beginning to heavily crack down on sanctuary jurisdictions for “unconstitutionally interfering” with federal immigration enforcement.

“When we are talking about sanctuary cities, we are talking about policies that are designed to allow criminal aliens to escape,” Barr stated. “These policies are not about people who came to our country illegally but have otherwise been peaceful and productive members of society. Their express purpose is to shelter aliens whom local law enforcement has already arrested for other crimes. This is neither lawful nor sensible.”

Blackburn confirmed that she had made the Department of Homeland Security aware of the legislation, but did not elaborate as to any coordination with the Trump administration on the proposing of the bill.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo revealed Wednesday that his state was partially backing down after the Trump administration responded to New York’s “Green Light” law — which gave illegal immigrants drivers’ licenses and blocked DHS from accessing state DMV records — by announcing that New Yorkers would be barred from federal fast-travel programs.

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