Wall Street Journal (Opinion)
By Claude Arnold
March 16, 2016
Rep. John Culberson, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations, recently pledged to block so-called sanctuary cities from receiving federal funding. The state of California, a leader in the growing “sanctuary” movement, and scores of other cities and jurisdictions across the country are undoubtedly in the Texas Republican’s crosshairs.
Congress is well within the law if it cuts off federal funds to states like California that refuse to comply with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to detain illegal immigrants or that otherwise obstruct immigration-law enforcement.
It is a myth that, as sanctuary proponents claim, collaboration with federal immigration authorities results in the widespread deportation of victims and witnesses. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security have the authority to prevent the deportation of and grant legal status to those individuals necessary to the pursuit of justice. As a special agent in charge of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations branch in Los Angeles (2010-15) and in St. Paul, Minn., (2007-10) I granted legal status for hundreds of witnesses, victims and informants who were in the U.S. illegally. In my eight years as a special agent in charge, I never denied such requests from a law-enforcement agency or prosecutor.
Until recently, sanctuary status was usually enacted with a policy limiting employees from assisting federal immigration authorities—with a caveat that employees could cooperate with criminal investigations or if required by federal law. Sanctuary jurisdictions rarely obstructed immigration enforcement. If they did, gently reminding them that doing so violated federal criminal law would usually right the wrong.
That changed when some jurisdictions, most notably California, began passing bills that clearly defy federal law. Recent California measures include the California Dream Act, which allows student aid for those in the country illegally; Assembly Bill 60, which allows those in the country illegally to obtain a California driver’s license; and the California Trust Act, which dictates to state law enforcement under what circumstances it can comply with federal immigration detainers.
Title 8 of the U.S. Code, Section 1324(a), plainly states that it is “a felony to encourage or induce an alien to come to or reside in the U.S. knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the alien’s entry or residence is or will be in violation of the law.” Possible penalties include a fine and up to five years in prison.
Bills like those passed by the California Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown are providing “sanctuary” to people illegally in the U.S. Such laws benefit existing illegal immigrants and encourage others. Legislators who vote for such bills, and the executives who sign them into law, enter into what a court could interpret as a criminal conspiracy to violate federal law.
Ironically, sanctuary proponents rationalize their policies by claiming that immigration enforcement is the exclusive responsibility of the federal government. But enacting laws like the California Trust Act, which dictates how the federal government can enforce the law, belies those claims.
Such legislation is not only bad law, it can have tragic consequences. In July 2015, 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle was shot dead while strolling on San Francisco’s Embarcadero with her father. The alleged shooter was felon and five-time deportee Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico.
Mr. Lopez-Sanchez has pleaded not guilty, maintaining that the shooting was accidental; he is being prosecuted for murder. But what about those responsible for releasing him not long before the shooting despite a federal request to detain him for deportation? When sanctuary jurisdictions like San Francisco County release criminals that officials know are in the U.S. illegally, and those criminals commit heinous crimes, those responsible should be federally prosecuted. At the very least, sanctuary jurisdictions that defy federal law should not receive federal funding.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com