Democrats on Thursday trashed a Republican bill to put pressure on "sanctuary cities" as an attack against immigrants, and called it President Trump's "mass deportation act."
Introduced by Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, the the Davis-Oliver Act allows Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security grants to be held from so-called sanctuary cities to encourage them to cooperate with immigration detainer requests.
The legislation would change the law so that being an illegal immigrant in the U.S. would be a misdemeanor criminal offense. It would also prevent any state or local government from passing any policies that would restrict a state or local government from "complying with the immigration laws" or someone attempting to enforce federal immigration laws.
The bill didn't get a vote in committee today, but Democrats made it clear they will not support it.
"This bill is the culmination of every hyperbolic and despicable thing that [White House Chief Strategist] Steve Bannon and President Trump have said about immigrants," said Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga.
"We have to call it Trump's mass deportation act. It is a hard anti-immigrant enforcement only proposal," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. "It is a welcome mat to racism. ... A repudiation of the very values that have defined our great nation since its inception."
At one point, Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., got into a back-and-forth about the idea of deporting illegal immigrants.
"Is the goal of my friend from Florida to round up 11 million people who living in our communities ... and to deport those 11 million people?" Deutch asked Gaetz. "And if that is the goal, is the goal to accomplish it all at once or will you be satisfied in doing it [in] tranches?"
Gaetz dodged, and said his remarks about illegal immigrants were to clarify why he calls them that. "They are here illegally," he said frankly.
"Should be they deported all 11 million all at once time?" Deutch asked.
"I think the focus of [the legislation] is to ensure the resources are available for law enforcement to ensure that those are the most dangerous draw our focus. So no, this legislation is not intended to deport 11 million people," Gaetz said.
Deutch then asked if the resources were available, would Gaetz support the deportation of 11 million people.
"Well, I'll tell you what, I always enjoy bipartisan work. ... So if you would like to work together on a mechanism to better enforce the rule of law and direct resources, I'd be eager to work with you on that," Gaetz replied.
Deutch told Gaetz said he will "never spend a moment's time trying to figure out how to put in place a policy that is inhumane and un-American that calls for rounding up 11 million people and shipping them out of this country. No."
The Immigrant Legal Resource Center sent a letter on behalf of nearly 200 national, state and local nonprofit organizations opposing the legislation.
More than two dozen police chiefs from around the country, current and retired, also wrote to committee members, to say the Davis-Oliver Act "threatens to undermine trust between immigrant communities and state and local law enforcement."