Sanctuary cities are once again in the headlines. But this time, sanctuary cities, the bane of immigration law enforcement advocates, have a different spin. Since five-time deported illegal immigrant Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate murdered Kate Steinle in July 2015 on Pier 14 in San Francisco, state and city governments have persisted in welcoming illegal aliens and protecting them from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. San Francisco is a sanctuary city in the sanctuary state of California.
Despite a federal immigration detention request to hold Garcia-Zarate so immigration officials could take him into custody, San Francisco authorities freed the seven-time convicted felon just three months before he killed Steinle. Eventually, Garcia-Zarate was acquitted and sentenced to time served on an illegal firearms possession charge.
Between January 2014 and September 2015, the Center for Immigration Studies reported that sanctuary jurisdictions rejected 17,000 ICE detainer requests – 17,000 individuals who should have been deported but remained to potentially pose criminal risk to U.S. citizens. Claiming that migrants are fleeing poverty and persecution, local leaders have been willing to spend their constituents’ taxpayer dollars on affirmative benefits for the newly arrived illegal immigrants.
Suddenly, however, with President Biden and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas opening the Southwest border to foreign nationals from 150 countries and clandestinely flying them to faraway cities, attitudes are less welcoming. New York Mayor Eric Adams said that busing migrants from Texas to mid-town Manhattan, as Gov. Gregg Abbott has done, is “cruel.” About 4,000 unlawfully present migrants have entered New York’s shelter facilities since May, an ”unprecedented surge,” said Adams, who has unsuccessfully called on the federal government to intervene.
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has made the same complaints as Adams, labeling the migrant flood “critical,” issuing identical rejected pleas for federal intervention. Since April, Gov. Abbott has sent more than 6,800 illegal immigrants to Washington. Bowser has begged for the National Guard to intervene “to help prevent a prolonged humanitarian crisis in our nation’s capital resulting from the daily arrival of migrants in need of assistance.” McAllen, Texas, Mayor Javier Villalobos mocked Adams and Bowser. Villalobos said: “The city of McAllen was able to deal with thousands of immigrants a day; I think they can handle a few hundred.”
Adams and Bowser should have known that pleading with the feds, especially Mayorkas, would be futile. At the January U.S. Conference of Mayors, Mayorkas tried to sell the assembled mayors on his new, mostly gutted ICE. But the attendees wanted to hear about border enforcement, a subject Mayorkas studiously avoided.
While it may be overly optimistic to hope for a change now that prominent Democratic mayors are experiencing first-hand the fiscal burden and public safety risks that sanctuary policies create, a shift is in the wind.
The mere existence of sanctuary cities is illegal. Local laws that protect illegal immigrants prevent routine cooperation among municipal, state and federal law enforcement agencies. President Obama’s Attorney General Loretta Lynch realized the importance of keeping law enforcement apprised about any individual’s immigration status. Lynch warned sanctuary cities that they would not receive Justice Department funding in the 2017 fiscal year if they did not comply with 8 USC Section 1373, which prohibits any agency from restraining “in any way” the exchange of information among federal, state and local agencies regarding foreign nationals’ immigration status. Despite saber-rattling from Lynch, and then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, funding continued.
With millions of border crossers already released into the U.S. interior, and millions more anticipated during Biden’s remaining two and a half years in office, sanctuary cities will come under increasing pressure to provide for their unlawfully present alien residents, an untenable situation for the already underfunded, overcrowded municipalities.