Politics & Policy

Martin O’Malley: Immigration Enforcement Is ‘Brutal’ and ‘Uncaring’ . . . but Sanctuary-City Murder Is the Fault of Failed Immigration Enforcement

O’Malley campaigns in Iowa City, Iowa, in June. (Scott Olson/Getty)

Down in the polls and struggling to gain traction in his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley began a whirlwind tour of Iowa Thursday by ignoring rivals Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in favor of a scathing attack on Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Calling ICE’s policies “overly broad and brutal, sometimes, and uncaring,” O’Malley told two dozen Iowans gathered for an immigration roundtable in the basement of Des Moines’s Trinity Church that, if elected president, he would extend the executive restrictions he placed on immigration enforcement in Maryland to the national level.

Yet when asked by a reporter whether San Francisco’s so-called “sanctuary” policies were to blame for the July 1 murder of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle at the hands of a five-times-deported illegal immigrant, O’Malley blamed the murder on . . . ICE’s failure to efficiently enforce immigration laws as it’s supposed to.

“I hope that all of our cities become more compassionate cities for all people,” he said. “ICE has some major challenges when it comes to their detention program, including some constitutional responsibilities, to provide those local detention centers with the proper paperwork, the warrant that actually shows to hold an individual.”

“It’s an awful tragedy, a terrible loss of life in San Francisco,” O’Malley continued. “But the blame is not to tell cities to cease being compassionate. It’s to fix ICE and get them to up their game and their effectiveness, in terms of delivering the right and timely warrant papers when, in fact, they want to hold someone that they believe to be a threat to public safety.”

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In contrast to Hillary Clinton, O’Malley again refused to say whether he believes San Francisco should have deported the seven-time felon who killed Steinle. “I don’t know all the ins and outs of this case,” he said.

It was all part of O’Malley’s plan to place himself to the left of his Democratic rivals on immigration. In his prepared remarks, the candidate reiterated his desire to expand President Obama’s executive amnesty to all illegal immigrants covered under the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013. He expressed confidence that the Supreme Court would eventually affirm the legality of the executive amnesty, which initially covered five million illegal immigrants but is now on hold after a district court decision declaring the move unconstitutional in February.

#related#Though the small audience listened politely and applauded O’Malley’s immigration platform, not everyone in attendance was convinced that the executive amnesty had been a wise move.

“You know, Reagan did that, and nothing changed,” says Jay Semerad from Adel, Iowa. “And not that it can’t be done again, but there needs to be a better attempt [to secure the border].”

“I don’t know if Donald Trump’s idea of building a wall is good, but you know, it’s an idea,” says Semerad. “There’s probably somewhere in the middle.”

— Brendan Bordelon is a political reporter for National Review.

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