I am glad to see that most of the GOP presidential primary challengers are talking about the need to end and outlaw sanctuary polices in the United States. I wish they would go a step further and explain why sanctuary policies are bad for public safety, officer safety, and border security. The American people need to understand the critical nature of—and a good candidate needs to also understand and be able to articulate—such an important issue.
As the former director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, I often talked about sanctuary cities and how politicians who pushed them were dishonest with their communities. I often talked about how these jurisdictions undermined public safety, put the public in harm’s way, and made life harder and more dangerous for law enforcement. I have been retired for a few years now and I still talk about the need to end these dangerous policies—and I will not stop until we succeed.
We often hear that sanctuary policies enable victims and witnesses to report crimes and communicate with police without the worry of being turned over to ICE and deported. This is a false narrative, but that doesn’t stop the open borders advocates from saying it repeatedly while putting pressure on governors, city councils, sheriffs, and chiefs of police to adopt sanctuary policies.
Let’s examine the false claim about protecting victims and witnesses. ICE is not interested in talking to any victim or witnesses to crime. ICE wants to talk to the criminal, the person that committed the crime, the person who local or state law enforcement locked in a jail cell. A sanctuary policy prevents ICE from accessing jails, and it prevents ICE from being notified when a criminal illegal alien is released from a jail.
Unless the police arrest and book a victim or a witness, ICE would never know of his or her existence. If victims and witnesses are afraid to report a crime, it is because of the false stories pushed to the public by open border groups, nongovernmental organizations, and politicians who want to vilify and mischaracterize ICE.
ICE’s ability to access a jail to speak with an illegal alien who has been locked up for a crime presents no danger at all to a victim or witness. And I don’t believe victims and witnesses of a crime want the bad guy released back into their community. That is just common sense.
Another false narrative is that these sanctuary laws protect the migrant community. Sanctuary policies accomplish the exact opposite. I have seen in my several-decade career that when a criminal illegal alien is released from jail, he will most likely re-offend in the same community where he lives—the migrant community.
A clear example is that MS-13 gang members almost always conduct their criminal activity within the migrant community. How does releasing a child predator, a convicted drunk driver, or someone convicted of assault back into the community help those who live there? The fact is that releasing criminals back into those communities puts victims and others at greater risk. It doesn’t protect communities. It only protects the criminal illegal aliens.
It also forces ICE agents to go into communities to seek out criminals. Instead of arresting the bad guy in the safety and security of a jail, they must go into a community or someone’s place of business to arrest the criminal. That is much more dangerous for the local law enforcement officers who will most likely have to deal with them again.
When ICE is forced into a community to arrest a criminal, chances are they will find others who are illegally in the country. People who were not even on the radar have been found during operations to seek out at-large criminals. We call these “collateral arrests.”
Where do most collateral arrests happen? Sanctuary jurisdictions—because we are forced into neighborhoods rather than operating within jails. So, not only is the community at greater risk of repeat crimes by the offender, but it is also at increased risk of ICE arrest.
ICE is not asking local law enforcement to act as immigration officers. It is simply asking that they give us access to taxpayer-funded jails to talk to those who we have probable cause to believe are in the country illegally and were locked up for committing a crime other than illegally crossing the border. Remember, the local jurisdiction has already made the decision to lock them up because they are either a public danger or a flight risk.
I can’t blame anyone who wants to be part of the greatest country on Earth. However, you cannot be a productive part of the greatest country without respecting our laws. You can’t have it both ways.
Thomas Homan is a visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation and former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Department of Homeland Security. This first appeared in the Daily Signal.