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When the candidates faced off on immigration in the GOP primary debate Thursday night, Gov. Rick Perry accused Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of supporting sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants.
"Senator," he said, "you voted for sanctuary cities."
Hutchison said the charge was "absolutely wrong."
Who's right? We decided to check the vote.
Perry's campaign pointed us to the proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. Hutchison voted against an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn, R.-Okla., to enforce existing border security and immigration laws before granting illegal immigrants amnesty. (The bill itself never passed the Senate.)
From a press release Coburn issued, the amendment would have required enforcement of "existing border security and immigration laws before amnesty can be granted to illegal immigrants. These provisions of existing law include: control over maritime borders, full fencing required by law, integrated alien databases, US-VISIT program, biometric ID system, and ending 'sanctuary city' policies."
A 1996 provision in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act requires states and localities to pass along someone's immigration and citizenship status on request from any government entity. Coburn's amendment tried to insure it would be enforced.
From a 2006 report by the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan agency that provides analysis to Congress: "Most cities that are considered sanctuary cities have adopted a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy under which they don't require their employees, including law enforcement officers, to report immigrants who may be illegally present in the country."
The Senate rejected the amendment 54-42. Hutchison's campaign said she voted against it because it also prevented local input on the location of a border fence — a project widely opposed in the Rio Grande Valley.
"I must protect my constituents," Hutchison said in a speech on the Senate floor before the vote. Border fence decisions belonged to the Border Patrol, "not the Congress, most of whom have never visited Laredo, Texas."
The Secure Fence Act of 2006, which Hutchison voted for, extended reinforced fencing and other barriers, roads, cameras and sensors, along 700 miles of the southern border.
Hutchison said that she agreed with with the "purpose" of Coburn's amendment but objected to what she said it would have allowed: government disregard for the opinion of private property owners and cities on the Rio Grande who would be affected by the fence.
But by voting to kill the amendment, was she also voting in favor of sanctuary cities?
We found no evidence that Coburn considered opposition to his amendment as support for sanctuary cities.
Coburn's amendment would have reaffirmed established border and immigration policies. From all evidence, there’s no reasonable way to conclude that Hutchison’s vote against the amendment was a vote in favor of sanctuary cities.
Perry's spinning the facts. We rule his claim False.
Congressional Research Service, Enforcing immigration law: The role of state and local law enforcement, Aug. 14, 2006
Cornell Law School, U.S. code collection: 1373. Communication between government agencies and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, accessed Jan. 15
KERA Dallas, primary debate, Jan. 14
The Library of Congress, Coburn Amendment No. 1311, June 5, 2007
The Library of Congress, Proceedings and debates of the 110th Congress, first session, June 7, 2007
The Library of Congress, Secure Fence Act of 2006, accessed Jan. 15
The New York Times, A closer look at the "sanctuary city' argument, by Michael Luo. Nov. 29, 2007
Sen. Tom Coburn, R.-Okla., Office Web Site, Senate rejects Dr. Coburn's amendment to secure nation's borders, June 7, 2007
The United States Senate, U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 110th Congress - 1st Session, accessed Jan. 15
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