This article first appeared in Eagle Rising.
We are headed for a showdown when Donald Trump becomes president over the issue of sanctuary cities. For too long, the federal government has stood quietly by as some of our larger cities have declared themselves sanctuary cities for illegal aliens. That means that their local police and court systems do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities when it comes to illegal aliens. (Some will when it comes to felons arrested for serious crimes.) It means that illegal aliens can be arrested for crimes, go through the local judicial process, and be released back onto the streets without ICE being notified. This insane policy in Los Angles led to the 2008 shooting death of Jamiel Shaw Jr. by an illegal alien gang member who had just been released from jail. It led to the murder of Anthony Bologna and his two sons in San Francisco by an illegal alien gang (MS-13) member who had been on probation for earlier offenses, and most recently, it led to the 2015 shooting death of Kate Steinle in San Francisco last year by -you guessed it-an illegal alien who had been deported 5 times. Both LA and San Francisco are sanctuary cities.
In response to Trump's election, cities and now universities have gotten their backs up and are announcing that they will continue to defy immigration authorities. The University of California, whose president is incredibly the former head of DHS (Janet Napolitano), has declared all of its campuses as sanctuary campuses. They are especially concerned that Trump may scrap President Obama's DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status for students who were brought to the US as children by their parents and are now in college. Columbia University's president has announced that the school will require that immigration authorities have a subpoena or warrant for the school to cooperate. (That can easily be arranged, at which point Columbia had better cooperate.)
As for the cities, they argue-disingenuously in my view- that they need the sanctuary policy in order to maintain trust within the community. They say that witnesses and victims of crimes will not come forward if they fear deportation.
Let's shed a little reason on this issue. We can begin with the cities first.
We first have to start with the fact that states and cities cannot circumvent federal law. They are correct when they say that the Constitution prohibits the feds from forcing them to enforce federal laws. In other words, just because the feds don't have enough manpower to find all the illegal aliens, they can't order the LAPD to devote their resources to enforcing federal law. But when local police have an illegal alien in their custody who is charged with a crime, they have a duty to notify ICE. If Immigration wants to place a hold for deportation purposes, they should be notified if that person is due to be released from local custody. That's what an Immigration hold does. In my opinion, if local authorities knowingly release an illegal alien from custody when the feds have placed a hold, I think the case could be made that someone aided and abetted a crime. I would love to see the new Justice Department pursue a trial case when the opportunity arises.
As for the argument that local police make, I have a little experience from my days in DEA. When I was stationed in Los Angeles from 1978-1982, I was assigned to an enforcement group called the Southeast Asian Heroin Task Force. Our specific focus was on Southeast Asian heroin cases, which generally meant heroin coming to the US from Thailand. Since LA had the country's largest Thai population, many of them were visa overstays, and some were involved in heroin smuggling, it was imperative that we worked within the Thai community and developed sources of information. In our group, we had LAPD officers, LA Sheriff's deputies, and an Immigration agent. We were able to identify certain people who had involvement and were in the country illegally. In many cases, we were able to recruit them as informants-and our Immigration officer worked with us on this tactic. He took care of the immigration details.
Similarly, if ICE and LAPD could work together, they could pool their resources and intelligence. Between the two, they could identify bad guys who are in the country illegally. These are the ones that we need to concentrate our efforts on, and Trump is now acknowledging that. I know from experience that local police and ICE can work together on this. They can also cut slack for informants, witnesses and informants who want to cooperate with police.
As for the universities, having just concluded 18 years of teaching English at UC Irvine to international students here on student visas-including many Saudis- I know that universities have Immigration officers who visit campus as advisers to these students helping them keep their visa status in order. That was and is certainly the case with UCI.
As for the DACA students, even if Trump scraps it, these are hardly the priority as to whom we want to locate and deport. In spite of Trump's campaign statements, he now clearly recognizes that 11 million people can't be deported. We have to secure the border and get rid of the criminals. Then we can find a way to deal humanely with the 11 million people whose only crime was to enter illegally. When Trump takes office, you are not going to see ICE agents storm campuses with raid jackets dragging away students-even if DACA is revoked. They don't have the time or the resources to do that.
I think it is time for everybody to tone down the rhetoric. Once Trump takes office, it is time to sit down with the cities and the universities. Working arrangements that are satisfactory to both sides can be found. Many of their fears are unwarranted and can be resolved. But cities and universities have to understand that they cannot thumb their noses at the law.