Comment: Hold Sanctuary Cities Liable for Crimes

Ross Mirkarimi (Ben Margot / Associated Press)
Ben Margot / Associated Press

What would be your reaction to an announcement by your local elected leaders that they would no longer be cooperating with federal law enforcement officials regarding bank robbery laws?

Or what if they declared that your city or county would cease prosecution of federal human trafficking laws, or that they believed it was no longer necessary to ensure prosecution of federal kidnapping laws?

Yet when city after city and county after county in our nation announce they have chosen selectively to ignore federal immigration laws that they believe are harsh or unfair by implementing sanctuary city policies, their citizens are silent—or, worse applaud their actions. Well, the time has come to put a stop to this insanity.

Kate Steinle wasn’t the first Californian murdered by an illegal immigrant, but her alleged murderer was the first to declare publicly that his return to San Francisco was based in large part on the fact that San Francisco sanctuary city policies make it much easier for illegal aliens in his position to avoid federal authorities.

Kate’s senseless murder by a seven-time felon and five-time deportee sheltered by San Francisco’s violation of federal law has resulted in a number of congressional initiatives attempting to change the ability of local governments to flout federal law. At present, the most meaningful of these is enacting “Kate’s Law,” which would mandate five years in prison for illegal immigrant felons who return to the U.S. following a lawful deportation.

While I support Kate’s Law, I’d like to suggest a much harsher solution, one that would more sharply focus the attention of elected officials who believe compassion for an illegal alien felon is more important than the public safety of residents. It’s well known that corporations and businesses face significant civil and even criminal liabilities if their actions expose customers or even the general public to danger or harm.

Whether it’s a cup of “hot” McDonald’s coffee or a Pacific Gas and Electric Company gas pipeline, if a court, state or federal regulators, or law enforcement officials find “fault” for actions or even failures to act, then victims are able to collect tens and hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation. In fact, corporate officials responsible could face prison for their misconduct.

Unfortunately for Kate’s family, like the family of Anthony Bologna and his sons—murdered by an illegal alien felon and MS-13 gang member—elected officials like the Sheriff of San Francisco or the members of the Board of Supervisors can’t be subjected to legal actions filed by the victims of their recklessness because of a legal doctrine broadly known as “sovereign immunity” or Rex Non Potest Peccare, roughly meaning “the King can do no wrong.”

That’s why I believe the time has come for Congress to do more than just fiddle around with funding measures that may have no impact on such policies, but to enact legislation compelling elected officials, like those in San Francisco, to be held to the same standard of care and conduct to which we hold others in our society.

When governmental actions result in harm or death, cities, officials in counties and even states like California that carry out policies that seek to avoid or stop enforcing certain laws should be forced to face the consequences of their actions by having their immunity stripped.

As I noted at the beginning of this article, we’d be astounded if our elected officials announced that they would begin selectively enforcing other laws in our society.

That astonishment would be based on our collective understanding that selective enforcement of law is essentially the equivalent of having no law.

Even worse for our society, when the people we elect ignore the violence, chaos, and lawlessness that results from their policies, no matter how well intended, then the subjects of the “king” who disregards them must themselves demand sanctuary from sovereign ignorance.


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