Trump administration spokesman Sean Spicer recently said that U.S. sanctuary cities “have the blood of dead Americans on their hands.” That might have sounded a bit hyperbolic, but it’s really an understatement. Illegal multiple offenders are committing crimes by the thousands across the country. Sanctuary cities are their enablers.
As controversy rages over the administration’s executive order on sanctuary cities and the courts begin to determine the constitutionality of withholding federal funds from them, it is worthwhile taking a look at what they actually do.
There are hundreds of sanctuary cities across the country. There is no clear definition and they take different approaches. They are the brainchild of well-meaning liberals who want to protect illegal immigrants from deportation even when they have victimized innocent people. The left-leaning Center for Popular Democracy has gone so far as to publish a manual and “tool kit” designed to help local policymakers establish sanctuary cities. “Detention and deportation,” according to these misguided liberals, “separate families and cause grave harm to communities. … When a person is arrested, locked up, and deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), it is an act of violence that causes immense suffering to everyone connected with that person.”
But let’s be clear. Trump’s executive order is not aimed at first offenders, but at criminal recidivists – multiple offenders – who may commit dozens, if not hundreds of crimes in their lifetime. The order notes that “tens of thousands of removable aliens have been released into communities across the country. … Many of these aliens are criminals who have served time in our federal, state, and local jails.”
Here is what ICE asks of local law enforcement so they can rid the country of immigrant criminals:
When local police make an arrest the offender’s identity is fed into the National Crime Information Center, the FBI’s data system, which reports whether the person has prior arrests. If the person appears to be an immigrant, his information is forwarded to the ICE, who checks to see if he is an alien (whether legal or illegal), whether he has a criminal history, and whether he presents a risk to national security, border security, or public safety. Aliens who commit crimes in the United States may be punished here and then returned to their home country or deported straightaway. So ICE issues a “detainer,” a “hold-this-guy” request, to the jurisdiction of arrest. Sanctuary cities often ignore these requests – which they are allowed to do. ICE calls this a “declined detainer,” and it allows the criminal to return to the street.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in a report issued in March, uses the example of Estivan Rafael Marques Velasquez, “a self-admitted MS-13 gang member, who was released from New York City custody with an active ICE detainer in place. The Salvadoran national has a criminal history in the United States which includes reckless endangerment in the second degree, criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, and disorderly conduct.” Not the sort of fellow you would want to meet on a dark New York street.
Velasquez is not alone. According to a new report from the DHS, in just one three-week period in February, 245 immigrants were released from custody despite requests from DHS that they be detained. Barry Latzer, former professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, analyzed the ICE data at our request and found that 45 of those crimes were extremely serious, including homicide, robbery, rape, burglary, and aggravated assault, and more than 200 were what Latzer calls “less serious” crimes, including possession of illegal weapons, domestic violence, and sexual assault.
Immigration detainers are one of the primary means federal immigration authorities use to identify and remove criminal aliens from the interior of the United States. During 2016, nearly 140,000 criminal illegals were deported, most as a result of detainers.
But not from sanctuary cities.
Sanctuary cities have adopted laws or policies that shield illegal immigrants from deportation, and often ignore ICE’s request for detainer and let the criminal return to the streets, even if he is a multiple offender. Release of criminals is not a rare occurrence: In just one week in February, ICE issued 2,868 detainers. Eleven sanctuary counties in California and New York declined 315 of those detainers, releasing 315 known offenders back to the streets to continue their unfettered life of crime.
And the victims? No concern on the part of the liberals. Luckily for the American people, the Trump administration takes a more enlightened and humanitarian view.
Alfred Regnery is chairman of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund and served in the Department of Justice during the Reagan Administration. firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephen Thayer was appointed U.S. attorney for New Hampshire by Ronald Reagan and was a justice of the Supreme Court of New Hampshire. email@example.com