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Biden sanctuary city pivot puts vulnerable Senate Democrats' stances in spotlight

Vulnerable Democratic senators who are up for re-election in November are having to balance their past voting record with their claims they do not support sanctuary cities.

A new White House stance on sanctuary cities has put vulnerable Democratic senators up for re-election in a difficult position as they traverse the issues of border security and illegal immigration. 

On Wednesday, Fox News Digital asked several Democratic senators in competitive states whether they agreed with the White House's shift toward encouraging local jurisdictions to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This marks a change from President Biden's previous statements. 

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., said in a statement to Fox News Digital: "Wisconsinites have said loud and clear they want real action that fixes our broken immigration system, secures our Southern border, and ensures that anyone who is a violent threat to our communities is prosecuted – and I am committed to working with anyone to do just that."

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While Baldwin stated her support for addressing both illegal immigration and the border, she did not answer whether she believes local municipalities should cooperate with ICE or turn over illegal immigrants who are detained. 

In a statement last month, Biden's White House said, "We welcome local law enforcement’s support and cooperation in apprehending and removing individuals who pose a risk to national security or public safety."

"When a local jurisdiction has information about an individual who could pose a threat to public safety, we want them to share that information with ICE," the statement continued. 

The White House's statement differed from Biden's previous stance on sanctuary city policies. During a Democratic presidential primary debate in 2020, he notably said "no" when he was asked whether arrested illegal immigrants should be turned over to ICE. After he entered office, Biden attempted to place a moratorium on deportations for 100 days, which was ultimately blocked by a federal judge. 

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"I voted for our bipartisan, Border Patrol Union-supported bill that would staff up our law enforcement, stop fentanyl from coming into the U.S., and invest in border security," Baldwin said in her statement, referencing a bipartisan border security and immigration measure that was killed by Republicans following former President Donald Trump's coming out against it. "Republicans need to come back to the table on this compromise because the consequences of inaction are unacceptable." 

In the past, the Wisconsin Democrat has voted against cloture on motions that would allow the Senate to move forward with bills seeking to withhold federal grants for sanctuary cities. Such occasions occurred in 2018, 2016 and 2015.

Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester's campaign declined to comment, referring Fox News Digital to his office. 

"Senator Tester strongly believes local jurisdictions should cooperate with ICE," his office said in a statement. "He does not support sanctuary cities and believes anyone who enters the country must be vetted and go through legal channels that keep our nation secure."

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Tester's strong stance against sanctuary cities presents a contrast with his voting history, however. Similar to Baldwin, the Montana Democrat voted against invoking cloture to proceed with bills aimed at preventing sanctuary city policies and halting federal grants from going to them. 

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., joined Tester's opposition to sanctuary policies via a statement from spokesperson Maddy McDaniel. "Senator Casey doesn’t support sanctuary cities and believes all jurisdictions must cooperate with ICE and law enforcement at all levels, and has opposed Republican efforts to defund the COPS program which helps law enforcement keep communities safe," she told Fox News Digital. 

But on the same cloture motions to move forward with bills to stop federal funding for self-proclaimed sanctuary cities, Casey voted against it. 

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Sens. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, are also up for re-election in states considered competitive, according to the Cook Political Report. Asked about their positions on sanctuary cities, they did not respond to inquiries from Fox News Digital. 

The National Republican Senatorial Committee slammed the group of Democrats in pivotal 2024 races, telling Fox News Digital in a statement, "Senate Democrats have spent decades voting to open America’s borders and give millions in taxpayer dollars to illegal immigrants, now cities across the country are paying the price for their radical agenda."

"None of their candidates will be able to hide their disastrous records from the public," added NRSC spokesman Philip Letsou. 

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was contacted by Fox News Digital for comment and did not hear back at press time. 

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

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