When Ignored, Minor Crimes Can Lead to Major Crimes

By Dan Cadman on October 29, 2014

My colleague Jessica Vaughan has laid out many of the weak points where immigration enforcement meets criminal law enforcement. Those weak points came to the fore with horribly tragic results in the murder of two California sheriff's deputies and the wounding of others by an illegal alien, Luis Enrique Monroy-Bracamonte — twice previously deported, a suspected gang member, and a serial lawbreaker.

Ms. Vaughan listed many questions still unanswered about Monroy-Bracamonte's case. The thing that I want to talk about, though, is the nexus between minor crimes and major crimes. Time and again, we have heard advocates for illegal aliens involved in so-called minor offenses provide excuses for their behavior and put forward suggestions for executive action from the president that would "legitimize" their theory of these presumably overlookable offenses. Monroy-Bracamonte is the textbook example of what is wrong with that theory.

Even police officials who should know better — such as the Salt Lake City police chief — are lured by this absurdity, and then take steps to substitute their judgment for federal law relating to what constitutes a deportable offense. This, in turn, leads to the release of recidivists such as Monroy-Bracamonte back to the street repeatedly until something happens that, as happened here, is horrible, tragic, and preventable.

It bears keeping in mind, though, that the state of California's hands are not clean either where it comes to substituting its judgment for that of our Congress in matters of immigration enforcement. It was not that long ago that Governor Jerry Brown signed the misguided TRUST Act, which lays down the conditions under which police officers should, or should not, honor detainers filed by federal immigration agents against aliens who have been arrested for crimes by state or local law enforcement officers.

With the TRUST Act in effect, it is easy to imagine that Monroy-Bracamonte's actions could very well have played out in reverse: picked up and released by California police or sheriff's deputies with no notification to, or intervention by, federal agents, leading to a double homicide in Utah. In fact, we should remember that the TRUST Act was enacted and signed despite a horrific triple murder committed by an illegal alien gang member in San Francisco (whose own police organizations hew to an even more stringent policy with regard to honoring immigration detainers than the state law).

Finally, I'd like to mention the "broken windows" theory of law enforcement that many major metropolitan areas, including New York City, subscribe to. The theory is that if one rigorously and vigorously polices against minor infractions, including vandalism, delinquency, trespassing and other public order crimes, the incidence of major crimes also diminishes because of the perception, by criminals and law-abiding alike, that law enforcement is serious and effective.

Yet these same metropolitan areas — again, New York being a prime (but by no means the only) example — fail to understand that the underlying principle also applies to immigration enforcement. Center Director Mark Krikorian has spoken to this in his recent posting at National Review Online.

When the police tell criminals in their custody with a wink-and-a-nod, whether at Riker's Island or elsewhere throughout the country, that they aren't going to give them up to immigration agents for removal, what message have these police officials really sent? Seems to me what they're saying is that they're willing to tolerate a certain level of lawlessness. Why be surprised, then, when that level escalates into violence and mayhem?