Diagnosis for Democracy
Insights into the State of Our Union
A Blog by Rob Tenery, MD


October 12, 2015: Sanctuary Cities Could Be Our Downfall

By Rob Tenery, MD on October 12, 2015

On Wednesday July 1, Kathryn Steinle died in her father’s arms after being shot in the back, while out for a casual stroll on Pier 14 at the San Francisco waterfront. To make the situation even worse, her tragic demise could have been avoided if the authorities, both locally and nationally, had done their job of protecting the public. San Francisco is a sanctuary city. And, Kathryn’s killer, Francisco Sanchez, is an illegal alien from Mexico, who has been convicted of 7 felonies and been deported 5 times.

In 1979, as a way of improving communication with the illegal immigrant population, Los Angeles created a policy that prevented their police officers from inquiring about the immigration status of individuals they arrested. The purpose was to let the crime stand on its own, and not their legal status. Labeled ‘Special Order 40’, the policy states, Officers shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person. Officers shall not arrest, nor book persons for violation of title 78, section 1325 of the United States Immigration code, pertaining to illegal entry. Since then, 340 municipalities have added themselves to the list, that are now called sanctuary cities. 

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm of Homeland Security or ICE says these sanctuary cities help shelter illegal immigrants from being deported. While most of them have decided not to cooperate with the federal agents, there is confusion on how the feds plan to deal with them.

Recently, new ICE director, Sarah Saldana, went before Congress and asked for help. "Last calendar year, state and local jurisdictions rejected more than 12,000 ICE detainer requests. These are convicted criminals." But after getting pressure, supposedly from the ACLU, immigrants rights groups and others, one day later, Saldana made an abrupt about face saying, "Any effort at federal legislation to mandate state and local law enforcement compliance with ICE detainers will, in our view, be a highly counter productive step and will lead to more resistance and less cooperation in our overall efforts to promote public safety." Another ICE official is quoted as saying, "We're not asking local law enforcement to do our job. All we're asking is that they notify us when a serious foreign national offender is being released to the street, so we can arrange to take custody."

The Washington Examiner reported on 7/13/15 that the sanctuary cities have released over 8,000 illegal immigrants in just eight months with criminal records or facing charges despite federal requests that they be turned over to ICE for deportation. There are possible solutions. According to author Jessica M. Vaughn, director of the Center for Immigration Studies, is for “Congress to spell out in federal law that local law enforcement agencies must cooperate with ICE by complying with all detainers or face sanctions in the form of disqualification from certain kinds of federal funding.” One example that comes to mind is federal grant funding by Homeland Security. Another approach is to dissuade repeat offenders from returning to this country. Television commentator Bill O’Rilley has urged Congress to pass legislation to impose strict, mandatory prison sentences for repeat violators.

What started as a ‘safe haven’ for down trodden individuals who were trying to make a new life, has morphed into something more. The leaders of these self-proclaimed sanctuary cities are defying federal law for their own aggrandizement, and apparently, without much regard for the safety of their own citizens. Without changes, they are becoming independent autocracies, answering only to their local political machines.  Look at Baltimore as an example.

Although there is federal legislation to assist ICE and the states as they struggle to cope with the problems of our porous border, our President seems more intent on granting all that come into this country, by legal or illegal means, the opportunities that have made this country unique. Unfortunately, his empathy appears to be motivated more by his own party’s potential political gain than for the good of those who are already here!





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