By Joe Guzzardi
July 13, 2015
The Republican-led Congress is wringing its hands about what to do regarding sanctuary cities. Congress recognizes that about 276 cities defiantly refuse to enforce federal immigration laws. During the last eight months, those cities released over 8,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records or facing charges despite federal requests that they be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation. But Congress acts as if it were powerless to end the potentially deadly practice of releasing convicted criminals into the general population.
Nearly everyone in Congress is publicly calling for strong legislation to dismantle sanctuary cities—the politically expedient stance. But whether anything tangible will happen is doubtful. The most probable outcome is what Congress does best: a lot of pontificating that ends up as smoke and mirrors legislation and falls far short of a true solution.
Capitol Hill insiders fear that the Senate will struggle to get a meaningful bill passed since it would require 100 percent Republican support along with the necessary Democratic backing to put it over the 60-vote threshold. The House picture is even dimmer. Despite the public outcry over Kate Steinle’s murder, House leadership seems paralyzed with the fear that any action it might take would be seized by the media and their political opponents and interpreted as anti-immigrant.
Given the hundreds of murders committed by released illegal aliens, no one can argue that if they were deported instead, American lives would have been saved. Nevertheless, analysts predict that the most likely outcome is a weak bill that does little but allows Congress to claim that it took bold action.
Away from the Steinle headlines, however, more drama is playing out in the federal and appeals courts that might result in a payback of sorts for the lawless Obama administration. Last week, Texas federal court Judge Andrew Hanen ordered top Department of Homeland Security officials including Secretary Jeh Johnson to explain why they should not be held in contempt for violating his injunction against President Obama’s executive action.
Among the defendants are the heads of Customs and Border Protection, ICE, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. DHS, claiming it was an “accident,” issued about 2,500 work permits after Judge Hanen ordered it to end entitlements granted under Obama’s executive action. Judge Hanen has also demanded that the work permits be revoked. Unless the defendants present a satisfactory explanation for their defiance of his order, Judge Hanen will direct them to personally appear before him on August 21.
The Obama administration fared just as poorly in the New Orleans Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals where it took its case after Judge Hanen ruled against it. The three-judge panel indicated that it doubts that Obama has the legal authority to unilaterally grant social security numbers, earned income tax credits, work authorization and Medicare privileges to about five million unlawful immigrants. Two of the three judges said that such rewards go well beyond what the administration calls prosecutorial discretion.
Since the Fifth Circuit Court doesn’t have a deadline to submit its ruling, anticipated to go against the administration, more time will run off the clock as Obama’s presidency winds down. If, as expected, the Circuit Court hands Obama his second defeat, the case will likely advance to the Supreme Court, where it will become the focal point of the 2016 election campaign.
Immigration may dominate the election landscape—sanctuary cities, Kate Steinle’s murder, Obama’s executive action—and will play out over and again in the months leading up to November, 2016. Candidates will have no way to hide their immigration opinions, whatever they may be.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]