Throughout 2017, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted enforcement operations across the United States. Simultaneously, a number of jurisdictions beefed up their sanctuary protections, often refusing to cooperate with ICE agents and barring them entry to jails and courtrooms.
In response to the action taken by these rogue jurisdictions, ICE Acting Director Tom Homan stated that sanctuary policies will not keep ICE agents from doing their jobs. Referring to the onerous policies California adopted statewide at the start of 2018, Homan said:
What they have done is forced my officers to arrest dangerous criminals on their turf, in their homes and places of business, rather than arresting them in the safety and security of a county jail. It's ridiculous to annoyingly and intentionally put law enforcement at risk. ... If [California Governor Jerry Brown] thinks he's protecting immigrant communities, he's doing quite the opposite because if he thinks ICE is going away, we're not. There's no sanctuary from federal law enforcement. Matter of fact we're in the process now ... I'm going to significantly increase our enforcement presence in California.
Homan's characterization of the problem is the paradox that sanctuary jurisdictions now face. Rather than allowing immigration officers to arrest removable aliens from the safety of jails and courtrooms, ICE agents must confront sometimes dangerous aliens in public. Thus, sanctuary policies endanger ICE agents, the aliens themselves, and the community around them.
True to Homan's warnings, ICE is increasing enforcement operations throughout the United States and particularly in jurisdictions with active sanctuary policies. In December and January, ICE conducted enforcement operations in Chicago, New York City, and New Jersey in which 127 illegal aliens were arrested.
The Chicago-area report notes that "most of the aliens targeted by ERO deportation officers during this operation had prior criminal histories." The raids took place in Chicago and throughout Cook County — a notoriously defiant sanctuary jurisdiction. The aliens' prior criminal convictions included sexual assault, kidnapping, assault, drug possession, and theft.
The New York City report lists only four arrests, but each of the individuals in question had immigration detainers issued by ICE that were specifically ignored by local authorities as part of the city's sanctuary policies. Each of the aliens was initially arrested for unspecified criminal charges unrelated to their immigration status before ICE detained them.
ICE's December operation in New Jersey resulted in the arrest of 101 aliens. According to the report, "88 percent were convicted criminals and 80 percent of them had prior felony convictions." Some of the more heinous criminals included a Turk convicted of possessing child pornography, a Spaniard who distributed child pornography, and a Dominican involved in the production and distribution of cocaine.
Interestingly, the individuals arrested in the New Jersey sweep were nationals of 21 different countries. Mexico was the number one country of origin, accounting for 15 of the 101 individuals, and no other country had more than eight nationals arrested.
These enforcement actions reflect ICE's determination to ensure that sanctuary cities are unable to shield criminal aliens from deportation. A growing number of cities are adopting sanctuary ordinances restricting cooperation with ICE. Because of this, ICE will be obliged to conduct further operations such as these in order to fulfill the administration's public safety priority of deporting criminal aliens.