House passes bill to crack down on sanctuary cities

Northampton offers sanctuary protections, but doesn't receive federal funding for it

FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2017 file photo, a woman holds a sign at a rally outside of City Hall in San Francisco. The Trump administration is moving beyond rhetoric in its effort to crack down on so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The Justice Department is forcing nine communities to prove they are complying with an immigration law to continue receiving coveted law enforcement grant money. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) –   The House passed a bill Thursday that cracks down on sanctuary cities in Massachusetts.

The bill is called the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act.”  It pressures so-called “sanctuary cities” to comply with federal immigration officials, and threatens to cut their federal funding if they don’t. Back in March, attorney general Jeff Sessions threatened to pull federal funding out of sanctuary cities. But it was unclear at the time, and is still unclear now, where that federal funding would be coming from.

The bill would allow the government to deny funding to local police departments that don’t comply. Northampton offers sanctuary protections, but doesn’t receive federal funding for it. Northampton police officers are not allowed to ask for your immigration status unless they have a warrant for your arrest.  Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly criticized sanctuary cities, saying they prioritize criminals over the safety of police.

“Certainly there are immigrants who commit crimes,” says Meg Larcey of Northampton, “who need to be processed appropriately just like anybody else, but the majority of immigrants come here to work.”

Northampton resident CJ Jennings disagrees with the bill. Jennings used to work at a company that offered sanctuary, “to a Guatemalan family, and they’re still my very good friends. They’ve enriched this community so much. We only are more enriched by opening up our homes.”

The bill passed by 33 votes, and now goes to the Senate for consideration. Experts predict the Senate won’t pass this bill.