Is ICE Undermining Its Own Sanctuary Jurisdiction List?

By Dan Cadman on October 30, 2015

A great deal of time and effort has been put into creating the interactive sanctuary jurisdictions map on the Center's website. But as Jon Feere just noted in a posting on the subject, the most important thing to recognize is that the government is the basis of the information, not the Center.

This is something Jessica Vaughan, the report's author, has emphasized repeatedly, not least to the many officials in those jurisdictions who have wiggled and squirmed at seeing their city, county, or state labeled publicly and have, on some occasions, resorted to sending bullying, haranguing letters or emails demanding they be taken off the map. More humorously, others have sent long, earnest explanations about why they aren't sanctuaries that, when read carefully, prove that they are in fact in the business of excusing criminal misbehavior and letting some aliens go instead of turning them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These jurisdictions just don't like to see themselves identified and labeled for all to see.

But there are troubling indicators that even the sanctuaries list — painstakingly compiled by ICE using solid statistics of detainers filed vs. detainers honored or not complied with in jurisdictions throughout America — may be in the process of being compromised by the taint of political agendas.

Rumor has it that ICE field offices are negotiating verbal deals with various police and sheriff's departments; deals in which, after a certain amount of dickering, the department settles on which sets of crimes it is willing to turn over aliens for, and ICE in turn agrees to only file detainers under those circumstances. Under this neat little arrangement, everything looks hunky-dory. Perfect compliance, great working relationship, and voila!, a one-to-one relationship between detainers filed and detainers honored. You don't get put on the sanctuaries list!

The only thing left out of this neat little equation is public safety. Alien criminals are still quietly released to the streets of communities throughout the country to reoffend. And let us not pretend they don't. The statistics prove otherwise and victims and families of victims shout otherwise, though their shouts are silenced through the filter of a generally indifferent media.

Perversely, the involved law enforcement agencies and the administration — especially including Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, the White House's enforcement "disabler-in-chief" — would have us believe the negotiations only involve minor, nonviolent offenders. This is because these cut-in-the-backroom deals are not only authorized, but encouraged under Johnson's dyspeptic "PEP" initiative, one of the series of "executive actions on immigration" directed by the president in November 2014. (See here and here.)

But "minor" and "nonviolent" are such fluid words, capable of being stretched out of all relationship to reality, because what a person is charged with sometimes has little to do with the severity of what they were doing or attempting to do. Look, for instance, at a recent article about a drunken illegal alien who tried to lure, and then snatch, a 13-year-old girl, but who was only charged with acting in a disorderly manner.

The shiny new suit that ICE was, when created pursuant to the Homeland Security Act of 2002, looks increasingly threadbare and moth-eaten thanks to the devious efforts of this White House to undo all things enforcement. It's hard to believe so much damage could be done in so little time; perhaps because the Obama administration came along before ICE really had time to develop a holistic culture, a history, or an institutional resilience.

The sanctuary jurisdictions list has been one of the few things of integrity left within ICE where immigration enforcement matters are concerned. Let's hope that last little glitter of integrity isn't being put through the shredder.