Dennis McCann was killed in 2011 by an alleged drunken driver in Chicago. The man charged, Saul Chavez, was an illegal alien with a prior felony who had never been reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
This time ICE was alerted and requested custody, but because of Cook County’s sanctuary policies to shield criminals from deportation, Chavez escaped punishment by posting bail and running off.
Congress has allowed sanctuary jurisdictions like Cook County to nullify federal immigration law for far too long. Sanctuary policies put our communities in danger and must be stopped.
Information obtained by the Center for Immigration Studies from ICE shows that the number of sanctuary jurisdictions has grown to 340, and each month they have been releasing about 1,000 criminal aliens whom ICE wanted to take into custody. Most of these people had significant prior criminal histories or other public safety concerns even before the arrest that led to the ICE request. A large number have been subsequently re-arrested for new crimes – crimes they would not have been able to commit had they been deported.
This is not a problem that is going to fix itself. Nor is President Obama going to take steps to rein in these rogue jurisdictions. In fact, the administration’s new Priority Enforcement Program, known by the faintly comical acronym PEP, explicitly allows jurisdictions to obstruct immigration enforcement.
That’s why action by Congress is needed. Legislation introduced by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) takes a balanced approach to curbing this dangerous practice. First, it would withhold certain federal funds from sanctuary jurisdictions. There’s no reason cities, counties, or states that subvert federal law should be subsidized by the federal treasury.
The bill also would protect from predatory lawsuits the vast majority of sheriffs and police chiefs who understand that cooperation with ICE is essential to public safety. The Obama administration has actually made it easier for the ACLU and others to sue cooperative sheriffs and police if ICE makes a mistake. Local law enforcement must be accountable for its own actions, but not for errors by the feds.
Without disincentives, diehard sanctuary jurisdictions like Cook County will not change their irresponsible policies. Congress should act to preserve the integrity of federal immigration law.
Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies.
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