Time to Sanction the Sanctuaries

By Jessica M. Vaughan on September 13, 2011

Cook County, Illinois (which includes the city of Chicago) passed an ordinance last week instructing the sheriff to disregard requests from ICE to hold suspected removable aliens who are arrested. This irrational directive already is sending violent criminal aliens back to the streets instead of into ICE custody, where a few of them might actually be deported, sparing future victims. ICE director John Morton probably doesn't care if Cook County keeps his agents from doing their job, but if Congress does, there is an easy fix – stop rewarding Cook County with millions of dollars in annual SCAAP payments until they start honoring the ICE detainers.

The county commissioners' move likely is in response to statements from ICE that it eventually intends to require all jurisdictions to participate in the Secure Communities program, which shares the fingerprints of all those arrested with ICE so it can take action against those who may be deportable. Mind you, ICE has yet to compel any jurisdiction to take part, and I remain skeptical that it will force the issue. But some of the most diehard sanctuary jurisdictions have decided that if they can't keep ICE from finding out about the criminal aliens in their midst, the next best thing is to keep ICE from taking them into custody. It is a truly extraordinary dereliction of public safety duties in service of the open borders agenda. In addition to Cook County, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties in California, and Taos and San Miguel counties in New Mexico have adopted similar policies.

Most observers agree that ICE can't compel the locals to respect the detainers; they are considered requests, not orders. But the feds have a powerful piece of leverage. Each year, the Department of Justice, in coordination with ICE, dispenses hundreds of millions of dollars to local law enforcement agencies to help offset the cost of incarcerating illegal aliens through a program known as the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP). Congressional appropriators should take steps to ensure that uncooperative sanctuary jurisdictions are barred from receiving SCAAP payments, or any other federal homeland security-related payments, for that matter. Such a provision in an appropriations bill could be written this way.

According to our report "Subsidizing Sanctuaries", last year Cook County received $3.3 million in SCAAP payments, even though the county sheriff didn't lift a finger to assist ICE in removing the criminals. In the meantime, people are getting killed – people like Dennis McCann, who in June was run over by an illegal alien drunk driver who had just months earlier been released from supervision for a previous aggravated drunk driving conviction in Cook County (see here). Such tragedies have so far failed to sway the majority of the commissioners from this reckless course, but the prospect of losing millions of federal dollars in federal funding might get their attention.