Law & the Courts

Thousands of Criminal Immigrants Were Set Free by ‘Sanctuary Cities’ Last Year

Illegal immigrants in custody in Adelanto, Calif., in 2013. (John Moore/Getty)

Local law enforcement agencies that have “sanctuary” policies for illegal immigrants released nearly 9,000 illegal-immigrant criminals whom federal officials wanted to deport in 2014, according to government records obtained by the Center for Immigration Studies.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials issued 8,811 detainers — notices that the agency wanted to take custody of an arrested immigrant — that were defied by local law enforcement from January to August of 2014. “Sixty-three percent of the individuals freed by local authorities had prior criminal histories or were labeled a public safety concern at the time of their release,” according to CIS, which obtained the data from ICE through a public records request. “Nearly 1,900 of the released offenders subsequently were arrested for another crime within that eight-month period.”

EDITORIAL: Democrats’ Deadly Sanctuary

San Francisco’s sanctuary policies provoked a national outcry after the murder of Kathryn Steinle, who was shot while walking with her father along a pier by a man who had been released from city custody in March. “It was never contemplated that our sanctuary city would give protection to serious repeat felony offenders,” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee told CBS.

#related#ICE records show that the City by the Bay has done just that, however. In March of last year, San Francisco officials refused to comply with an ICE detainer issued for an illegal immigrant facing robbery and drug-related charges; after being released, the individual was arrested again for rape. “Local refusal to comply with ICE detainers has become a public safety problem in many communities, and a mission crisis for ICE that demands immediate attention,” Jessica Vaughn writes in the Center for Immigration Studies report.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch can pressure sanctuary cities to change their policies, a senior Republican senator reminded her last week. “Municipalities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration laws simply should not receive the Department of Justice’s assistance funding,” Alabama’s Richard Shelby wrote to Lynch on Thursday. “The freedoms we enjoy — like strolling on a San Francisco pier with our children — are possible only when we are willing to enforce the federal laws that keep our families and our freedoms safe.”

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President Obama’s team seems unlikely to put any such pressure on sanctuary cities, given his policies over the last several years. “The Obama administration has made it clear that it will assert federal supremacy in immigration matters only when the states like Arizona are trying to help enforce the laws, not when states like California try to block enforcement,” Vaughn writes. “Moreover, the Obama administration has given sanctuaries free rein to ignore detainers by ending the successful Secure Communities program and replacing it with the Priority Enforcement Program. This new program explicitly allows local agencies to disregard ICE notifications of deportable aliens in their custody by replacing detainers with ‘requests for notification.’”

— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.

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