February 5, 2016
In a recent television interview, retired FBI assistant director James Kallstrom was asked about sanctuary cities. Kallstrom, the FBI’s lead investigator on the 1996 TWA 800 midair explosion, answered that the only “sanctuary” the cities provide is for lawbreakers.
Sanctuary cities are a contentious subject on Capitol Hill. The 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act expressly banned restricting communication between federal and local law enforcement, and sanctuary status violates another federal law that prohibits aiding and abetting aliens.
Yet many major metropolitan cities like New York, Chicago, and entire states like Rhode Island and North Dakota are self-designated sanctuaries. In all, about 340 sanctuary cities, counties and states protect criminal aliens from deportation by refusing to comply with Immigration Customs and Enforcement detainers.
In June, 2015 San Francisco’s sanctuary status broke into the national headlines when five-time deported, seven-time convicted felon Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez shot and killed Kate Steinle shortly after Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s office released him. Lopez-Sanchez’s lawyer wants the second-degree murder charges against his client dismissed on the grounds that the shooting was accidental.
An ICE report prepared at Congress’ request found that between January 1 and September 30, 2014, local sanctuaries released 9,295 deportable alien offenders. More than 600 people were released at least twice. To date, neither the Department of Homeland Security nor the Department of Justice has challenged a sanctuary city even though the Senate and House Judiciary studies found that the policy allows 30 criminal aliens a day to elude federal agents and deportation.
Americans are frustrated by Congress’ unwillingness to defund sanctuary cities. Last year, a Senate bill with that goal failed, President Obama threatened to veto it had it passed, and the $1.1 trillion Omnibus legislation included funding for sanctuaries.
Recognizing that municipalities are breaking the law, and that Americans want sanctuaries eliminated, House Appropriations subcommittee Chairman Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) who oversees the Justice Department, wrote Attorney General, Loretta Lynch to warn that she must deny federal funding to sanctuary cities or risk losing money for DOJ’s other priorities. Culberson can deny DOJ funds without congressional approval.
In his letter, Culberson called sanctuary cities “unacceptable,” and have contributed to “senseless, preventable deaths,” like Steinle’s and hundreds more. Culberson concluded that any refusal by the DOJ to comply with his “reasonable and timely requests” will weigh heavily in his consideration of its 2017 budget requests.
Administration claims that it cannot control what municipalities do regarding incarcerated aliens is insupportable. Federal law trumps city and state law. And in fact, President Obama’s top deportation official, ICE Director Sarah Saldana, has said sanctuary cities are dangerous, and put an additional strain on her agents because they have to track down released violent criminals at large instead of taking custody of them while they are still in jail. Nevertheless, Obama has promoted his Priority Enforcement Program that, despite its name, specifically tolerates sanctuaries.
Rep. Culberson’s timing is good. Even San Franciscans have come to recognize a sanctuary city’s danger to the public. In November, Sheriff Murkarimi lost his re-election bid to anti-sanctuary city candidate Vicki Hennessy by a 62-31 margin. Last year, North Carolina signed legislation to prohibit sanctuary polices.
At a minimum, the White House should protect American citizens and not continue, as Obama has done, to put them at unnecessary risk because of the presence of deportable criminal aliens.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]