Reeaz Khan, a 21-year-old Guyanese national who is in the United States illegally, was arrested earlier this month and charged with "murder, sexual abuse, contact by forcible compulsion, and sexual abuse against a person incapable of consent" in an alleged attack on a 92-year-old woman, Maria Fuertes, in Queens on January 6. He had been released in November by the NYPD, notwithstanding the fact that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had placed a detainer on him, a detainer that was blithely ignored under New York's sanctuary policy. It raises the question whether the city has a "Death Wish".
The reference, for those who are not familiar with Charles Bronson movies, is to the 1974 action drama of the same name. As IMDB describes the plot: "A New York City architect becomes a one-man vigilante squad after his wife is murdered by street punks in which he randomly goes out and kills would-be muggers on the mean streets after dark." They leave out the part where his daughter is brutally raped in the attack (leading to her long-term placement in a rehabilitation center), which occurred in the tony Manhattan apartment of Paul Kersey (Bronson) and his wife Joanna (Hope Lange).
As Wikipedia explains: "The film was a commercial success and resonated with the public in the United States, which was facing increasing crime rates during the 1970s." That was especially true in New York City, where I spent time in the summer of 1983. Trash was everywhere, crime was a constant fear, and Times Square was not the family tourist attraction it is today (it might have been an attraction, but not for families).
You don't have to trust my memories, however. Here is a description from City Journal in 2009:
Just 20 years ago, New York City was racked with crime: murders, burglaries, drug deals, car thefts, thefts from cars. (Remember the signs in car windows advising no radio?) Unlike many cities' crime problems, New York's were not limited to a few inner-city neighborhoods that could be avoided. Bryant Park, in the heart of midtown and adjacent to the New York Public Library, was an open-air drug market; Grand Central Terminal, a gigantic flophouse; the Port Authority Bus Terminal, "a grim gauntlet for bus passengers dodging beggars, drunks, thieves, and destitute drug addicts," as the New York Times put it in 1992. In July 1985, the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City published a study showing widespread fear of theft and assault in downtown Brooklyn, Fordham Road in the Bronx, and Jamaica Center in Queens. Riders abandoned the subway in droves, fearing assault from lunatics and gangs.
A focus on law-enforcement and order, particularly under then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani (who made quality of life the focus of his successful 1993 mayoral campaign) and his police chief William Bratton, brought New York City back from the brink and made it a place where the citizens were safe again. Unfortunately, it appears those lessons have been forgotten.
Which returns me to Khan. ICE explains that he is "unlawfully present" in the United States and that:
On Nov. 27, Khan was arrested by the NYPD for the charges of assault, and criminal possession of a weapon. On that same date, [Enforcement Removal Operations (ERO)] deportation officers lodged a detainer with the NYPD. The detainer was not honored, and Khan was released following arraignment.
I could go on about why the City of New York would want an illegal alien facing assault and weapons charges back on the street when he could be sitting in ICE detention, but it is better to just leave it to Thomas Decker, the ERO field office director in New York for his take on the situation:
It is made clear that New York City's stance against honoring detainers is dangerously flawed. It was a deadly choice to release a man on an active ICE detainer back onto the streets after his first arrest included assault and weapon charges, and he now faces new charges, including murder. ... New York City's sanctuary policies continue to threaten the safety of all residents of the five boroughs, as they repeatedly protect criminal aliens who show little regard for the laws of this nation. In New York City alone, hundreds of arrestees are released each month with pending charges and/or convictions to return back into the communities where they committed their crimes, instead of being transferred into the custody of ICE. Clearly the politicians care more about criminal illegal aliens than the citizens they are elected to serve and protect. [Emphasis added.]
Many of these sanctuary policies, and many other anti-immigration-enforcement positions taken by localities around the United States, seem to be driven by politics, and in particular distaste for President Donald Trump, who has made the subject one of, if not his main, issues. Hate the president all you want, think he should be more civil, tweet less, be impeached, and #resisted like the French partisans who opposed the Nazi occupation, but if you are an elected official and allow that hate and your own sanctimony to blind you, you have failed in your primary duty — the simple safety of your citizens.
If the charges against Khan are true, New York Mayor (and failed presidential candidate) Bill de Blasio (D) and NYPD leadership failed. Not "dropped the ball", not "goofed", not "erred" — failed.
They failed nonagenarian Maria Fuertes, who had her dignity violently ripped from her and who, according to the criminal complaint in the case, "lay half-dressed in 32-degree weather for two hours before she was found, conscious but 'incoherent,'" at two o'clock in the morning.
If you live in New York, she could have been your mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, or sister, so they failed you, too. Her family will have to live for the rest of their lives knowing the pain and degradation with which she lived the last 120 minutes of her 92 years.
Whenever a criminal escapes ICE custody as a result of such asinine sanctuary policies, defenders of those policies say that most illegal aliens are not criminals but good people. That may well be true. But, as I have stated before, illegal aliens who have committed crimes are criminals, and the immigration laws exist to get them off the streets, out of the country, and away from the American people, citizen and legal immigrant alike. Let them.
Sanctuary defenders often fall back on the questionable trope that such policies are essential to protecting the community (which the Center has rebutted, but why let facts get in the way?) by ensuring that aliens feel comfortable going to the police without fear of removal. My response, as I have previously explained, is "in blocking ICE access to criminal aliens, sanctuary cities endanger their own residents: citizens, legal immigrants, and illegal immigrants." So, Mayor de Blasio and the leadership of the NYPD, if "protecting the community" is your goal, and the charges are correct, you have failed, in a way well beyond the kind of failure that it would take to get the average laborer or cubicle-dweller fired.
The worst part is that crimes like this, committed by illegal aliens who were previously released after detainers were ignored by sanctuary cities, are so common, but so quickly forgotten, buried by a media with its own agenda. I won't forget Maria Fuertes, and I hope that you won't either.
New York City turned itself around in the 1990s by making law enforcement and public order job one. Through its sanctuary polices and other poorly thought-out laws, it is dragging itself back to the place that I saw in the summer of 1983. It is almost as if Gotham has its own "Death Wish".