An editorial in Friday’s Chicago Tribune supports one side – the liberal side, of course — of a vast gulf between Democrats and Republicans over illegal immigration and the activities of so-called sanctuary cities that purposely counter existing federal law. At the heart of the problem – and mostly ignored by the editorial — is a federal government that refuses to enforce existing law.
For Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, the border between the U.S. and Mexico was more like a revolving door. He was deported in 1994, 1997, 1998, 2003 and 2009.
He should have been deported again earlier this year, after he finished his third prison sentence for illegal re-entry. Instead, he was turned over to the San Francisco sheriff, who let him go. On July 1, he allegedly shot and killed 32-year-old Kate Steinle as she walked along a pier with her father.
What went wrong? We’ll get to that in a minute. But taking money away from local police departments isn’t the way to prevent it from happening again.
That’s the solution proposed by Republicans in Congress. They blame Steinle’s death on San Francisco’s sanctuary ordinance, which is meant to shield undocumented immigrants who are otherwise law-abiding from deportation.
Otherwise, law-abiding? How is that? The moment illegal aliens set foot on U.S. soil they are not abiding by the law. It has been asked over and over, but what part of “illegal” don’t journalists and editorial writers understand?
Last week, the House passed a bill that would strip federal law enforcement grants from jurisdictions with sanctuary policies. Nationwide, more than 300 local governments — including Chicago and Cook County — have such policies.
Sanctuary jurisdictions typically don’t detain people based on immigration status if they would otherwise qualify for release. A driver who’s here illegally doesn’t have to worry about being deported over a speeding ticket; an immigrant arrested on suspicion of shoplifting can be released on bail pending a court date. In some places, police aren’t even allowed to ask whether a person is in the country legally.
Yes, we get it. Law enforcement should focus primarily on violent criminals, aliens or otherwise, and that includes those who should be deported after serving hard time for crimes committed here. But, sanctuary policies fly in the face of federal immigration law, which is quite simple. Those who have not entered legally can’t be permitted to enter at all.
If immigration officials had gotten a warrant, Lopez-Sanchez would have been held in San Francisco’s jail for them to pick up. Or they could have deported him immediately, as they did after each of his other stints in prison. They dropped the ball. Three months later, Steinle was killed.
Her death was senseless, tragic and preventable. But Republicans in the U.S. House are pursuing a wrongheaded solution. They want to withhold crime-fighting money from local governments that have sanctuary policies. Passing the bill — they called it “Kate’s Law” — was a chance for them to talk tough about our broken immigration system without actually doing anything about it.
Now, every time a Republican takes a stand they will be painted as posturing and “talking tough” for campaign purposes. Kate’s Law has nothing to do with sanctuary cities, by the way. It requires five years of prison for anyone trying to return to the U.S. after being convicted of and serving time for a violent crime here. How did criticizing Kate’s Law fit their stance on sanctuaries?
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) did indeed drop the ball, but again San Francisco’s sanctuary policy contributed to the problem with Lopez-Sanchez.
That he hadn’t committed a violent crime as yet is why he was released. But, by that reckoning, Chicago’s notoriously violent mobster, Al Capone, would not have faced federal border-crossing penalties — had he slipped into the country during the Obama administration — because his Prohibition-era conviction was that of the non-violent crime of tax evasion.
Most of them [illegal immigrants] are leading peaceful, productive lives. They are the immigrants the sanctuary laws are intended to protect.
Granting legal status to those who qualify would have the same effect. They could go about their lives, while police go about their jobs.
Treating them all like criminals makes it all but impossible to sort out the few who are truly dangerous.
And writing editorials that hide behind the cloak of “fairness” encourages more and more border problems. The elephant in the room, to borrow a tired phrase, is that the border is too easy to cross. Americans should not fear gardeners and chambermaids from neighboring southern countries, but jihadists are another story. Do many thousands of people in a city near the southern border like San Diego, Tucson, Phoenix, El Paso or San Antonio have to die from detonation of dirty bombs for this administration to seal the border and follow its first objective and protect Americans?
Still, the Obama administration fails to enforce the law by hiding behind “fairness” via presidential fiat. It is the obvious plot of Democrats to attempt to lock up the votes of Hispanics, legal or otherwise. This plan might truly backfire, however. Why would Hispanics who now earn low wages want more competition flooding the country? If a family worked hard to maneuver the rather difficult citizenship hurdle, why would they accept a free pass for those who broke a law to enter the United States?
We’ll stay on it like a Rottweiler on a pork chop,