American immigration and United States refugee crisis concept as people on a border wall with a US flag as a social issue about refugees or illegal immigrants with the cast shadow of a group of migrating women men and children.

The Insanity Over “Sanctuary” Cities

By:  H. Glenn Fogle, Jr.

There has been a lot in the news recently about so-called “Sanctuary Cities” and how the Trump Administration is targeting these places of supposed refuge for illegal immigrants.  What is big deal here and what is this all about?  “Sanctuary Cities” are municipalities or communities that have decided that their police forces are in existence to do police work and protect their communities and not do the work of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or their enforcement wings, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

It all began with a program called “Secure Communities” where arrestees throughout the country had their fingerprints sent to a DHS database called IDENT to see if the arrestee is legal in the United States.  If IDENT made a hit, then DHS was automatically notified that a potential illegal immigrant had been arrested.  DHS then would send a detainer request to the jail to hold the detainee for 48 hours in order for ICE to pick up the individual and put them in removal proceedings.  Because of the limited resources of DHS, there was a 3 tiered risk system which categorized the detainees based on their offense levels ranging from serious violent felonies to misdemeanors and minor offenses.  However, what ended up happening is that a vast majority of those arrested were for minor traffic or administrative offenses such as traffic tickets and driving without a license.   Law enforcement officers in many jurisdictions would simply stop people who looked foreign, Latino, etc. and then arrest them for some “traffic offense” which would never normally result in an arrest, and they would end up in ICE custody.  Furthermore, they would often hold detainees much longer than the 48 hours they were supposed to hold them.

These procedures eventually took a toll on the various law enforcement agencies around the country due to the cost of keeping detainees, distracting law enforcement from their normal policing duties and also creating a great distrust between immigrant communities and the police.  Various studies showed that Secure Communities did little or nothing to reduce crime (which is not surprising because a vast majority arrested were not criminals but traffic offenders).  Many jurisdictions tried to withdraw from the Secure Communities program and began refusing to honor the ICE detainer requests and sometimes got in legal battles with the Federal Government.  Federal courts also held that the Federal government cannot force State and local jurisdictions to enforce Federal laws. In November 2014, Secure Communities was discontinued.  However, the Trump Administration has revived it.

Now a number of jurisdictions have stated that they will not honor ICE detainers and/or share information about arrestees with DHS.  Trump and Jeff Sessions are now threatening to withhold federal grants/funds for law enforcement to these jurisdictions.  The logic of this is somewhat preposterous.  The Trump Administration is claiming to “protect” the American people, however, they would withhold funds from law enforcement agencies which are used to protect the communities these very agencies are in existence to safeguard. Such action clearly does not help protect communities at all but actually makes them less safe by depriving them of much needed funds for police and law enforcement programs that are designed to safeguard those communities.

In other words, if the municipalities or other law enforcement jurisdictions do not enforce federal laws, which they constitutionally are not required to do, the Trump administration will make them more dangerous by withholding federal monies to help protect their communities.  Rather than help communities they would rather harm them because of political reasons.  This is nothing short of wrong in every way.  In fact it might very well qualify as evil.