Politics

Sanctuary Cities Emptying Jails

More than 9,000 criminals in U.S. illegally released

Since July, 41 localities have become “sanctuary” jurisdictions that obstruct enforcement of federal immigration law, bringing the total to 340, according to a report by the Center for Immigration Studies.

Those jurisdictions include a pair of Washington, D.C., suburbs, Maryland’s Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, as well as all of New Mexico’s counties. As a result, jails across the country are cutting loose about 1,000 illegal immigrants charged with criminal offenses every single month.

Jessica Vaughan, the study’s author, said Monday on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that most of those released had snuck across the border, while others came legally on visas but failed to return home when their papers expired.

“They’re all deportable, and even more significantly, ICE (the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency) was trying to deport them after it found out that they had been arrested for something in the community where they’d been living,” Vaughan said.

Federal agents have been able to apprehend only about a third of those released. As of last year, 6,460 were still at large. 

Those released were charged with crimes and posted bail. Ordinarily, a jail inmate cannot get bail if another jurisdiction, including the federal government, has a “hold” on him. But these jurisdictions are not complying to the hold issued by the feds for immigration law violations and are releasing the detainees after 48 hours, or some other limited period of time.

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As a result, jails from Jan. 1, 2014, to Sept. 30, 2014, released 9,295 people who ICE was trying to deport, according to this month’s study. Unlike the majority of people released on bail, most illegal immigrants never show for their court dates.

Federal agents have been able to apprehend only about a third of those released. As of last year, 6,460 were still at large. And 1,377 of those people had another arrest after the one that prompted ICE agents to ask local jurisdictions to hold the suspects.

Vaughan said local authorities cited a range of “excuses” for their conduct. In some cases, local authorities have blamed court rulings for tying their hands.

“The real reason is they want to pander to these ethnic advocacy groups,” she said.

Vaughan also rejected another popular rationale — that cooperating with immigration authorities will deter illegal immigrants from reporting crimes.

“That so-called chilling effect is really a myth that was concocted to come up with some excuse to build a firewall between local law enforcement agencies and ICE,” she said. “And I have to emphasize, most of these policies are not initiated by police chiefs or sheriffs. They’re imposed on them by either states laws, or city councils or mayors, in some cases, who want to curry favor with their groups that, you know, are going to work for their campaign.”

“Most of these policies are not initiated by police chiefs or sheriffs. They’re imposed on them by either states laws, or city councils or mayors, in some cases, who want to curry favor with their groups that you know, are going to work for their campaign.”

Congress could prod cities and counties to cooperate with immigration authorities by withholding federal funds to recalcitrant jurisdictions. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has offered a bill to do just that. In addition to cutting off funds, it would make sheriffs and police chiefs immune to lawsuits for mistakes made by immigration authorities.

Vitter’s bill has gone nowhere, however.

Vaughan said the drive against sanctuary jurisdictions would have even less momentum were it not for this summer’s killing of American Kate Steinle by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco. The alleged assailant, Francisco Sanchez, previously had been deported five times.

That shooting, Vaughan said, has prompted journalists to dig into the immigration background of killers.

“It turns out it actually happens much more frequently than you’d think,” she said.

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