While there is certainly room for debate on how to tackle the issue from a political and logistical standpoint, there is little room for doubt that America has an illegal immigration problem. There is also little room for doubt that the situation with U.S. sanctuary cities, which provide safe harbor for many violent criminals, is untenable. Still, despite hardline rhetoric from presidential candidates like Donald Trump and others who argue in favor of tightening our immigration policies, the fiasco continues undeterred.
Case in point: The number of American sanctuary cities providing refuge for thousands of violent criminals has grown to more than 340 to date. That means there are 340 jurisdictions in the United States that will not cooperate with federal deportation requests.
While some of these jurisdictions, like those in California, come as no surprise, others like Prince George's County in Maryland and Chesterfield County in Virginia raise eyebrows. The Washington Times reports:
The list of sanctuary cities has grown to more than 340, and they shielded an average of 1,000 immigrants a month from deportation last year — and more than 2,000 of those released have already been arrested for yet more crimes, according to a report being released Thursday by the Center for Immigration Studies.
Among those released are illegal immigrants accused of murders and brutal assaults, said Jessica Vaughan, the author of the report, which comes just as the Senate is poised to begin debating legislation to try to crack down on sanctuary jurisdictions.
Santa Clara County Jail in California alone released some 1,349 immigrants that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents had asked be held for pickup, the new report says. Los Angeles released 572.
Vaughan urged elected officials to “not sit back and watch these sanctuary jurisdictions continue to release thousands of criminal aliens back into our communities in defiance of ICE efforts to deport them, and then witness the harm that inevitably ensues when these removable offenders strike again.”
Sanctuary cities are notorious for housing the worst offenders. Recall earlier this year when an illegal immigrant who had just been released by the county murdered San Francisco resident Kathryn Steinle. Indeed, the city that brought us hippie-culture ranked eighth worst on the list of offenders, according to the report. San Francisco released 252 illegal immigrants in 2014 alone.
Of course immigrant-rights activists are none-too-pleased at efforts to disband sanctuary cities. Their argument in favor of protecting these lawless wastelands? Well, that Hispanics will be offended if police cooperate with immigration authorities. The Washington Times report expands:
Immigrant-rights advocates defend sanctuary cities, saying that worrying about deportations is a job for the federal government, not local officers. The advocates also say that when local police do cooperate with ICE, it strains relationships with Hispanic communities in particular, who then fear reporting other serious crimes.
The conflict has left Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in the middle. He scrapped the mandatory Secure Communities program that had pushed state and local prisons and jails to hold illegal immigrants, bowing to legal challenges to the program.
But he has instead tried to earn buy-in for a voluntary approach, known as the Priority Enforcement Program or PEP, which asks communities to cooperate, and promises to only ask for the most serious of criminals to be turned over.
Oh good, only the most serious. So it's OK to be a “little bit criminal” while residing in the United States as an illegal immigrant.
Still, Johnson himself cedes that sanctuary cities are the main impediment to successfully deporting criminals, and that they directly relate to why overall deportations have dropped to record-lows.
The secretary said between January 2015 and June 2015 localities released more than 16,000 illegal immigrants that his agents had wanted held for deportation.
In case you're wondering where some of those 16,000 went, you might be interested in reviewing Vaughan's most up-to-date map, which pinpoints sanctuary cities across the U.S. It can be accessed here: http://cis.org/Sanctuary-Cities-Map