Pressing Sanctuaries to Change Their Ways

By Dan Cadman on July 20, 2017

Tom Homan, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has promised to get tough on sanctuary jurisdictions that harbor illegal alien criminals and refuse to cooperate with ICE agents by either holding the criminal aliens on ICE detainers after arrest or by notifying the agents of the criminal aliens' release dates from jail, so that they can be taken into custody for removal proceedings.

Homan says that his agency will be focusing extra manpower and attention in such areas in order to be sure that, to the extent possible, criminal aliens released by police can't just return to the streets and continue with business as usual. This is a good but unfortunate necessity under the circumstances, since it's always more resource-intensive (not to mention less safe for the officers and the public) to have to track down criminal aliens when local law enforcement chooses not to cooperate and simply lets them go.

What it means, though, is that someplace else won't get the attention it deserves, as there are a finite number of agents available nationwide — fewer than 7,000 in the Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) division, which is the portion of ICE primarily involved in immigration enforcement — and putting extra agents in sanctuaries means taking them from somewhere else. That doesn't bode well for public safety, does it?

In other words, because of sanctuary jurisdictions' flagrant disregard for the public welfare of their own citizenry, some other place, some other family, may suffer tragedy when, as has happened so often in recent years, a violent alien offender slips through the cracks and instead of being deported ends up being put back into the community (ironically, by the police) where he ends up harming someone else.

The other problem I see with this new emphasis is that, although it will send a clear message that state and local officials don't get the final say on where the federal laws will be enforced, to some extent it's an empty gesture.

Think about it this way, via a (perhaps not so) hypothetical scenario: A major meat packing plant is notorious for hiring illegal aliens; in response, ICE periodically sweeps through and arrests the alien workers. If nothing happens to the employer, he will simply return to his usual pipeline of sources and hire more illegal aliens to work in the plant. If there is no penalty for his actions, why not? It's just business as usual from his point of view and, although the periodic enforcement actions are disruptive, the cost effectiveness of hiring cheap under-the-table labor more than makes up for the aggravation in the bottom line.

Likewise, in sanctuaries, if nothing is done to impose individual penalties on the state and local government officials who have imposed the deliberately restrictive and foolish policies, why would they alter course?

One way to do so, of course, is to bar the grant of federal money to such jurisdictions. Just such a bill has passed the House of Representatives, and is now awaiting action in the Senate. We'll see what happens there. Passage in the upper chamber is the right and responsible thing to do, but isn't certain.

Meanwhile, there are other steps that can be taken, independent of whether, and when, the Senate acts. Such steps should include selective prosecution of state or local officials who cross the line from passive noncooperation to active obstruction, or who engage in acts that by any reasonable standard constitute harboring and shielding alien criminals from the reach of ICE, which is a felony under federal law.

Some might call such a move extreme, but I believe it would be, rather, a measured response to the alarming and increasingly extreme activities by state and local government officers. To take one example, National Public Radio (NPR) recently aired a piece on "Morning Edition" titled "Denver Takes Steps To Shield Immigrants From ICE".

Although NPR blurs the line both in its title and in the story itself, let's be clear: the "immigrants" being shielded from ICE are aliens charged with crimes whom ICE has been forced to apprehend in state courthouses when they show up to respond to the charges because local police and sheriffs have refused to cooperate. Now the mayor and other officials are trying to frustrate that second best alternative (the best being to take custody of the aliens inside the secure perimeter of a jail or detention facility).

Here's a part of the NPR broadcast:

DAVID GREENE, HOST: So the mayor of Denver is confronting federal immigration agents. The agents have gone to local courthouses to arrest people in the country illegally. Denver's mayor, Michael Hancock, first asked the agents to back off unless they have warrants. And then he moved to make their job harder. Here's Colorado Public Radio's Allison Sherry.

ALLISON SHERRY, BYLINE: Mayor Hancock is in a sort of cat-and-mouse game with Immigration and Customs Enforcement at Denver's courthouse, where thousands of people visit every day dealing with civil and criminal matters. The mayor says he wants to help people avoid the place so that they're not targets of ICE agents who are roaming around.


MICHAEL HANCOCK: Our actions are meant to do what we can to protect the individuals who are working hard every day, have their families here, trying to raise their families. Their children are in our school. And they are being productive members of our community.

SHERRY: This summer, Hancock and the City Council took a number of steps. They reduced jail sentences so that immigrants convicted of petty crimes don't get flagged for deportation. They let people plead to traffic offenses online so that they could avoid the courthouse altogether. And they allowed immigrants without legal status to wait in a private shelter across the street until it's time for them to appear in court. That way, they can avoid spending too much time in courthouse hallways in view of federal agents.

One wonders: Do U.S. citizens, who also have spouses and children who rely on them, get these same privileges? Can they dodge charges, or have jail sentences reduced, or "show up" for court via computer hook-ups? I doubt it. The scales of justice are lopsided here in favor of aliens because there is apparently a two-tier system in which they are given an advantage by local officials over their U.S. citizen counterparts.

Taken collectively, particularly the reference to the officially sanctioned safe house across the street from the court building mentioned in the broadcast, this is clear evidence of an active conspiracy to harbor and shield criminal aliens from detection.

Section 1324 of Title 8 of the United States Code says this—

(a) Criminal penalties


(A) Any person who—

(iii) knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of law, conceals, harbors, or shields from detection, or attempts to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection, such alien in any place, including any building or any means of transportation...shall be punished as provided in subparagraph (B) [which carries penalties of fines and imprisonment up to five years for each alien harbored or shielded].

It has long been an established principle of American jurisprudence that government officials are not above the law. In fact, it is a general expectation that government officials should comport to standards higher than those of the average person. Clearly that isn't happening in Denver or various other sanctuary jurisdictions.

If these local officials choose to engage in civil disobedience, then true to the ideals of Gandhi or Martin Luther King, they should be prepared to accept the consequences of their disobedience. Perhaps it's time for the Justice and Homeland Security Departments to test the sincerity of their beliefs and resolve.

One last thought I wish to offer: The point of such an exercise would not be just to "show who's boss", although there truly is value in preserving the principle of federal preeminence over matters exclusively assigned to the central government by the Constitution.

The point is that the feckless actions of these misguided state and local officials are hurting and killing people — real people — who somehow seem to get lost in the equations and calculations of sanctuary governments, whose leaders somehow have forgotten that victims' rights should be paramount when addressing the issue of crime, especially crime committed by foreign nationals illegally in the United States.