Immigration and Customs Enforcement director Sarah Saldana acknowledged on Thursday that “sanctuary city” polices put federal immigration officers at risk, but she declined to support measures that would force local law enforcement agencies to scrap them.
“Does the sanctuary city program put your field personnel at more risk than they would be otherwise?” South Carolina Rep. [crscore]Mick Mulvaney[/crscore] asked the Obama appointee during a contentious House Oversight Committee hearing.
“Yes, having to go into a jurisdiction, into somebody’s home, when we could have gotten them at a local sheriff’s or police department, yes, it does put them at risk,” Saldana acknowledged.
Hundreds of cities and counties in the U.S. have the controversial laws, which prohibit local law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal agencies in immigration cases. That means that the local agencies refuse to give ICE custody of illegal aliens that the federal agency wants to deport.
In some cases, violent criminal illegal aliens have gone free. The policies entered the national spotlight last July after a Mexican national with a lengthy rap sheet killed Kate Steinle in San Francisco. ICE had sought the killer, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, in April after he was released from federal prison. But the San Francisco sheriff’s department refused to honor ICE’s detainer request, citing its sanctuary laws.
Mulvaney asked Saldana on Thursday if she supported withholding federal funds or other strategies to force sanctuary locales to start cooperating with the feds. But she said she opposes the idea because local agencies would not respond kindly if the federal government “browbeat them over the head.”
“State and local governments don’t want the federal government to tell them what to do,” Saldana said.
“So you don’t want us to take steps to lower the risk for your own people?” Mulvaney asked later in the hearing.
“I’m saying give me an opportunity to get this done,” Saldana responded.
When Mulvaney asked Saldana about the risks that sanctuary policies pose to the public, she equivocated.
“Does the sanctuary city program put the public at risk?” the Republican asked.
“I don’t know what the sanctuary city program is, sir,” Saldana replied, adding “I want every jurisdiction cooperate with ICE.”
“I will work with you to try to come up with a rational system by which we can improve that situation,” she continued, stressing the word “rational.”