At a March 28 White House press conference, Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired what could be his last warning shot over sanctuary city mayors’ heads. Sessions’ blunt message: Obey immigration laws or your dangerous cities will lose Department of Justice federal funding, have existing grants canceled, and become ineligible for future grants.
Sanctuary cities, estimated to be more than 500, are communities that refuse to cooperate with Immigration and Customs officials’ requests to hold illegal immigrants. Federal law requires local jurisdictions to inform ICE when they’ve detained, and before they release, an illegal immigrant, even if a criminal conviction hasn’t been handed down.
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security issued its first weekly report which identified the jurisdictions that denied ICE detainer requests regarding aliens charged with or convicted of a serious crime. In a single week, municipal officials ignored more than 200 ICE requests for murderers, drug traffickers, rapists, and hit and run drivers. Now free in the general population, their continued presence puts more Americans at risk.
Kate Steinle’s 2015 high-profile, broad daylight murder in San Francisco by a five-time deported, seven-time convicted felon, the early March Maryland high school bathroom rape of a 14-year-old girl by two recently arrived Central American aliens, and dozens of other violent crimes during the intervening 18 months have convinced most Americans that enough is enough. Even those conflicted about immigration want to feel safe in their neighborhoods.
The pro-sanctuary holdouts are, not surprisingly, the mayors that endorse noncooperation. On the same day that Sessions made his statement, the sanctuary leaders convened in New York to make their well-worn, flawed arguments that their cities are among the United States’ safest. But the unarguable counter is that if Juan Francisco-Lopez Sanchez had been deported, Steinle would be alive today.
Still, the mayors talk tough. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called denying federal funds unconstitutional, and insisted that his city would remain “welcoming.” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio threatened to sue DOJ. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said that Sessions’ proposal to withhold funds is “destructive” and “irresponsible.” Walsh added that aliens can conduct their business from his office or any other City Hall office. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray vowed that his city would not be “bullied” by the Trump administration. The San Francisco Mayor, dismissing Steinle’s murder, reaffirmed the city’s sanctuary commitment. And California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León protested that defunding the state’s sanctuaries would be “race-based scapegoating,” and “inhumane.” In February, de León admitted that without sanctuary, “half his family” could be deported.
Here’s the law that Sessions cited that gives him the authority to deny funding. Readers can determine for themselves who is right — Sessions or the mayors. According to 8 U.S. Code, Section 1373, “A state or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict ... sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.”
The law is clear; the mayors’ thinking, wishful.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.