U.S. Rep. Jason Smith has filed legislation to block Federal Highway Trust Fund dollars from going to states and local governments that refuse to obey federal immigration laws.
“Over 300 cities and counties employ policies to stonewall the federal government and prevent the Department of Homeland Security from effectively enforcing our immigration laws,” Smith wrote in a statement issued Thursday before introducing the legislation.
“We are a nation of law and order, and cities that actively work against the law of the land should face consequences,” he said.
The 8th District, Republican congressman from Salem, Missouri, said he introduced the No Highways Funds for Sanctuary Cities Act to “cut off the spigot of federal funds to cities and counties that fail to work with us to make America safe.”
Smith said Friday no city or county in Missouri has designated itself a sanctuary for illegal immigrants.
But according to the Center for Immigration Studies, Washington, D.C., and cities and counties in 28 states have adopted laws or policies that shield criminals from immigration enforcement.
The center’s website states sanctuary cities, counties and states “obstruct immigration enforcement.”
The based center’s website has identified “sanctuary” communities in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
Proponents of sanctuary cities say such policies encourage members of immigrant communities to work with police without fear of deportation. They argue it helps law enforcement identify and arrest dangerous criminals who otherwise might go undetected.
But Smith said such policies go against federal law.
Smith said one of President Donald Trump’s priorities is for “a fairly large infrastructure package” that would involve “a lot of federal spending for our roads, bridges and ports, which are needed.”
The congressman said, “I want to make sure that cities and counties which are disobeying federal immigration law are not rewarded.”
Withholding of federal funds to force compliance is not new, Smith said.
“When states refused to increase the drinking age, they lost federal money,” he said.
The same action was taken when states did not comply with the national speed limit or weight limits on trucks, Smith said.
The Republican lawmaker said federal funding for transportation projects might not pass Congress without a provision to block such funding from going to sanctuary cities.
Smith said he doesn’t want federal tax dollars to go to a sanctuary city such as San Francisco when it could be spent on projects in Southeast Missouri.
Mayors who refuse to work with federal authorities to enforce immigration laws “better change their ways or they will lose their funding,” he said.
Smith said his legislation has “a considerable amount of support” in Congress and the White House.
He said former president Barack Obama’s administration would “pick and choose what law they would enforce.”
Smith suggested Trump would restore order.
“The wild, wild West is ending. We have a president that will enforce the law,” he said.