Laws are a necessary evil in civilized society. You obey the laws and the government will do its best to protect you and yours. But what happens when there’s a conflict between a state and a federal law?
That is the situation across America today. So far six states: California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont, along with multiple dozens of cities and counties – are on record as being safe spaces — places of sanctuary — for those who have entered the country illegally. They are all ignoring federal immigration laws.
Those in favor of the Sanctuary City idea seem to embrace old adage of “two wrongs make a right.” They have been upset with the country’s immigration policies for years now. They feel the Trump administration’s recent declaration that sanctuary cities are “violating the law” is wrongheaded and, therefore, justifies their own disregard of existing immigration law. They believe America should open its arms to immigrants, not slam the door in their faces.
It is time to acknowledge, however, that not all illegal immigrants are created equal. Yes, there are those who came here desperately seeking a better, safer future for their family and have lived exemplary lives. And then there are others who entered the U.S. illegally and committed heinous crimes against American citizens. Let’s focus on this latter group.
Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents (ICE) want to keep track of those who’ve been arrested on local criminal charges. They frequently issue what’s called an “immigration detainer,” a formal request to be alerted when a “criminal alien” (as the White House calls them) is about to be released from custody. Then they can move in and decide about possible deportation. But officials in sanctuary cities are ignoring the detainer requests and allowing these non-citizen convicts to simply walk out the jailhouse door.
Look, its obvious we need major immigration reform and I support several ideas for change, like adoption of the Dream Act allowing the undocumented who were brought here as children a path to citizenship. But, it is not time to change the idea behind getting rid of the criminal element that enters our country illegally. Those locations that ignore federal detainer orders do so at their peril. And they put all of us in harm’s way.
By now, you’ve likely heard about Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, deported from the U.S. five times. He illegally re-entered again and shot and killed a woman in San Francisco (a Sanctuary City) back in 2015. He declared it was an accidental shooting and was recently found not guilty of that murder. Federal authorities have now stepped in and charged Garcia Zarate with both immigration and gun violations. Too little too late for the family of Kate Steinle, 32, who was simply out for a stroll with her father when she was gunned down.
And I have written in this space* about the situation in Connecticut, a state where a growing number of localities are currently considering laws to protect undocumented immigrants or have already passed such laws. Perhaps they forget that back in 2015 Haitian Jean Jacques was released from a Connecticut prison after he’d served a 17-year sentence on attempted murder charges. He was not deported as convicts are supposed to be and six months later he murdered 24-year-old Casey Chadwick.
These are only two examples of immigrants who have committed felony crimes while on U.S. soil. Space does not permit the entire long list. So, remind me again how sanctuary cities are helping Americans stay safe?
I understand those in favor of defying federal immigration actions do so with altruistic motives. They offer heartfelt pleas on behalf of those who have been living peacefully in the U.S. for years and the families that might be torn apart by application of the law. They remind us that America was built on the backs of hard working immigrants who came from every corner of the globe.
Let’s also remember that those who helped build America came here through an orderly and legal process. And it has been this country’s long-standing policy to deport those immigrants who are convicted of serious crimes like rape, murder, aggravated assault and drug or sex trafficking. President Obama supported this idea as well.
Truth be told we have ignored our immigration policy problems for so long that we’ve backed ourselves into a legal corner. By some counts there are now more than 600 jurisdictions across the country that have approved some sort of sanctuary policy yet that term has no technical or legal definition and isn’t mentioned in any section of the U.S. Code.
Its long past time for politicians to re-vamp and update our immigration policies but I’m not holding my breath. At the very least, every jurisdiction needs to recognize those immigration detainer requests as necessary to keep Americans safe. It’s time to put every one of those who have proven to be unworthy to live here on a plane back to their home country.