What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Immigration Law Reform : S 1348. (Immigration overhaul) Amendment by Coleman of Minnesota that would allow law enforcement to question people about their immigration status/On agreeing to the amendment (2007 senate Roll Call 177)
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S 1348. (Immigration overhaul) Amendment by Coleman of Minnesota that would allow law enforcement to question people about their immigration status/On agreeing to the amendment
senate Roll Call 177     May 24, 2007
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Win
This vote occurred on an amendment offered by Norm Coleman, R-Minn., that would allow federal, state or local law officers to question people about their immigration status if officers had probable cause to believe someone was in the country illegally. The amendment was offered to a bill intended to overhaul America’s immigration system.

Coleman said his amendment will help expose the criminal element among immigrants that he argued sometimes hides under the anonymity granted by some state and local laws.  The amendment, he said, will “allow folks to come out of the shadows and into the light. The only folks who won’t come into the light will be those folks who have criminal problems.”

Under current law, law enforcement officials are required to share information about illegal immigrants with federal authorities.  However, many cities have circumvented this law by putting into place a “don’t ask, don’t tell” type system where law enforcement officers are prohibited from asking people about their immigration status.  In this way there is no information to share.  Coleman said his amendment would close this loophole.

Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said Coleman’s amendment would undermine states and localities that have prohibited their officers from asking about peoples’ immigration status.  Menendez argued that this prohibition is important for securing peoples’ cooperation in ongoing criminal investigations, as well as in providing health care.  Often, Menendez said, foreigners are reluctant to give law enforcement crime-related information, or seek hospital care, out of fear of being deported.

“I have talked to some of the toughest law enforcement people across the country. Many cities, counties, and police departments around the country have decided that it is a matter of public health and safety not to ask, not to ask about the immigration status of people when they report crimes or have been the victims of domestic abuse or go to the hospital seeking emergency medical care,” Menendez said.

By a vote of 48-49, the Senate rejected the amendment.  The majority of Republicans voted for the amendment, though eight voted against it.  And the majority of Democrats voted against the amendment, though nine voted for it. Thus, the amendment was rejected, and the bill went forward without language that would have allowed federal, state and local law enforcement officials to inquire about a person’s immigration status.
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