Sanctuary Laws Risk Americans’ Safety

By Jessica Vaughan on July 9, 2015

The New York Times, July 9, 2015

The senseless killing of Kathryn Steinle by an illegal immigrant with multiple felony convictions and removals, who the San Francisco sheriff refused to turn over for deportation, is the latest evidence of the serious public safety problems created by sanctuary policies.

Immigration laws are not obsolete relics that are unworthy of enforcement; they are crucial to preserving jobs and security for Americans. Congress and state lawmakers must act promptly to clarify that sanctuary policies are not only unwise but contrary to law, and impose sanctions on local governments that persist in providing sanctuary to illegal aliens.

Sanctuary policies are especially harmful when they let criminal immigrants be released back to the street instead of removed to their home country, giving them the opportunity to continue preying on the community, creating needless new victims.

The Steinle episode was not an isolated incident. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement records I recently obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request, in the first eight months of last year, more than 8,100 immigrant offenders who were sought by the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in sanctuary jurisdictions were released instead of turned over for deportation. Just in this period, approximately 1,900 of these deportable convicts re-offended 4,300 more times, racking up 7,500 new charges. The subsequent crimes included murder, sexual assault on young children, violent rape, burglary, assault, dangerous drug offenses, and drunk driving. More than 1,000 are still at large in our communities.

Some will argue over whether immigrants commit more or less crimes than Americans (there's no solid evidence either way, see this report). That's irrelevant; the more important policy issue is how we handle those immigrants who have committed crimes.

The Obama administration has made it clear that it will not act to deter the obstruction of immigration enforcement by local sanctuary policies; indeed it has drastically reduced deportations within the country and moved to accommodate local opposition to enforcement.

Therefore it is up to Congress and state leaders to take action against sanctuaries. States can enact laws prohibiting sanctuary policies and direct agencies to notify I.C.E. when they are aware of deportable offenders. The most effective solution, though, is for Congress to assert its constitutional authority over immigration policy and clarify in statute that local agencies must not obstruct, but assist, when I.C.E. seeks custody of a deportable offender, and that jurisdictions that do not comply will lose certain federal funding.