The Willful Blindness Of Sanctuary Cities
American “sanctuary cities” are established by politicians who presumably seek to protect illegal immigrants from what they see as inhumane U.S. deportation policies. But by ignoring federal requests to detain them, and instead releasing suspected and convicted illegal aliens back into the community, sanctuary cities open their doors wide to the creation of a wave of additional victims in their own communities.
To appreciate the threat, look no further than the tragically avoidable murder of Kate Steinle in sanctuary city San Francisco. Kate’s killer, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, was deported from the U.S. five times, was on probation, and had seven felony convictions. He used a stolen government handgun to fire three shots, one of which ended Kate’s life on a city pier. The San Francisco sheriff’s office had opted to put Lopez-Sanchez back on the street rather than handing the felon over to ICE.
Few cases are as tragic and expose the risks more clearly than Kate’s, which demonstrates the fact that subsequent crimes committed by criminal illegal aliens released despite the existence of ICE detainers are preventable. And the very evident risks to those new victims are what sanctuary cities willfully ignore.
There are hundreds of jurisdictions with sanctuary policies across the country. More and more are loudly vocal about their resistance; their primary cry is to accuse the Trump administration of leading a frontal attack on millions of illegal immigrants who are merely trying to eek out an existence in a better place than their homeland. In truth, the Administration is attempting to rid the country of the relatively few criminal illegal aliens who’ve chosen to prey on our citizens and on other undocumented aliens. To succeed, they need the assistance of state and local law enforcement authorities.
Sanctuary cities defy federal immigration authorities’ detainer requests, citing the reality that immigration is a federal responsibility and claiming the Feds can’t impose their responsibilities on local officers without their consent. Simply put, the performance of a federal job in immigration enforcement by state and local jurisdictions is voluntary.
But the Federal government can encourage local support of immigration enforcement by conditioning the receipt of certain federal funds on cooperation with immigration functions. ICE detainers are one of the primary means used to identify and remove criminal illegal aliens from the interior of the United States. But when local sanctuary policies obstruct or ignore detainer requests and release criminal aliens back into the community, the communities are anything but more safe as a result.
A Department of Justice’s (DOJ) analysis in October 2014 showed that between January 1 and August 31, 2014, ICE documented 8,145 declined detainers covering individuals in 276 counties in 43 states including the District of Columbia. Of the 8145 illegal immigrants for whom detainers were declined, more than 5000 (62%) were previously charged or convicted of a crime or presented some other safety concern. Almost 3000 had prior felony charges or convictions and almost 2000 had prior misdemeanor convictions or charges to include those related to violence, threats, assaults, sexual abuse and unlawful possession of firearm or other deadly weapon.
That’s 60% of the releasees known to have committed prior crimes. Of course another segment certainly did commit prior crimes but had yet to be identified or charged. An acceptable risk? Release policies that somehow make the community safer? Not at all.
Recidivism in the illegal immigrant community can be every bit as common as in the broader population. The DOJ report also found of those 8,145 releasees, 23% had a subsequent criminal arrest and were charged with 4,298 offenses in just the eight month period covered by the report.
The bigger picture is grimmer. A separate DOJ report on recidivism tracked over 400,000 prisoners released in 30 states in 2005 and followed for five years.
The report found more than two thirds of the prisoners were rearrested within three years of release and more than 75% were rearrested within five years. The 400,000-plus prisoners followed accounted for almost 1.2 million arrests. Translating that recidivism rate to released criminal illegal immigrants in the DOJ study suggests over 6200 would be rearrested within five years, responsible for more than 18,000 total arrests.
The DOJ detainer report documented egregious crimes committed by criminal illegal aliens on unsuspecting, law abiding people to include murder, child sexual abuse, rape, resisting an officer causing death or severe bodily injury and other serious crimes.
Criminal illegal aliens held in sanctuary city jails, including those with a litany of prior crimes, are being released into our communities. They will commit future crimes resulting in death, sexual assault, robbery, burglary and others. They will cause great physical and psychological harm to Americans and other illegal immigrants alike. The future crimes are preventable if communities wake up to their obligation to protect their own citizens first.
No family should suffer the same fate as Kate Steinle’s.
W. Stephen Thayer is an associate of the Law Enforcement Action Network, a former U.S Attorney and New Hampshire Supreme Court justice.