Politics & Policy

Defying Law

Holding sanctuary cities accountable.

On June 22 in San Francisco, Edwin Ramos, an illegal alien and member of the MS-13 gang, allegedly pulled a gun on Tony Bologna and his two sons, Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16, and shot all three to death. Last August, illegal alien Jose Carranza was charged in Essex County superior court in New Jersey for the execution-style murders of three college students. Both of these dangerous criminals had been detained by local law enforcement officials previously. They had been found to be illegally in our country. But because of the local government’s sanctuary policies, federal immigrant officials were never notified — these illegals were never turned over for deportation.

The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act requires local governments to cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But the reality is that many of our largest cities have defied federal law and have adopted sanctuary policies that protect illegal aliens from enforcement agencies. Cities that practice sanctuary policies actually instruct city employees not to notify the federal government of the presence of illegal aliens living in their communities. They even bar local law-enforcement officials from inquiring as to the immigration status of criminal suspects.

The horrific and violent nature of Ramos’s actions — he unloaded an AK-47 assault weapon on Bologna and his two sons because their vehicle blocked an intersection that prevented Ramos from turning left — has sparked an important national discussion about San Francisco’s sanctuary policies. Why should the federal government continue to provide federal criminal-justice funding to cities and municipalities that blatantly flout federal immigration law? San Francisco’s elected board of supervisors, for example, adopted a sanctuary policy in 1989 that expressly bars local officials from cooperating with federal authorities in their efforts to deport illegal immigrants.

For years I have been asking this question while Congress continues to sit on its hands instead of enforcing and strengthening enforcement against illegal immigration. Last year, during the U.S. Senate criminal-justice funding bill debate, I offered an amendment that would have barred certain law enforcement funding from cities with sanctuary policies. That amendment lost by a vote of 52-42, but I have offered this same policy as a stand-alone bill that can be called up at any time if the Democratic Majority Leader allows it. Unfortunately that’s not likely in an election year featuring a Democratic presidential candidate who supports giving driver’s licenses to illegals.

Carranza’s alleged actions in New Jersey were equally as horrific as those of Ramos. Carranza had a fake Social Security number, and like Ramos, had been arrested on previous charges — Carranza was arrested for raping a four-year-old girl, which included a 31-count indictment. The most appalling aspects about both these cases is the complete lack of action on the parts of both Newark and San Francisco to use the current federal immigration law on the books as legal tools at their disposal to get these evil men off the streets and out of our country.

Amnesty proponents would have you believe that once we pull men like Ramos and Carranza “from the shadows,” we can begin cracking down and rehabilitating them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Only when our national policy focuses on making living illegally in the United States more difficult and less satisfying will we successfully curb our rising illegal immigration problem. For that to work effectively, our cities and municipalities need to do their part.

Regardless of where one falls in the illegal-immigration debate, sanctuary policies are a concrete example of mayors and city councils directly breaching federal immigration law. These cities must be held accountable. The single most effective way to do that is to hit them where it hurts — their precious federal funding. Follow current federal law, or if you refuse, lose significant federal dollars. That would surely be a tough call for many of these liberal big-city officials.

We must get serious about the illegal-immigration problem. One way to do that is to hold all sanctuary cities accountable.

– David Vitter is a Republican senator from Louisiana.


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