The first time I became aware of the ridiculous double standard at work in our immigration system was when a colleague of mine in Congress, Elton Gallegly, told me of an incident that occurred in his Southern California district.
A teenager was arrested and brought before a judge for mugging an old woman and breaking her arm while stealing her purse. He had no identification on him and had given a Hispanic name when arrested. When brought before the judge, he said he had snuck into the U.S. shortly before the mugging. As an illegal alien, he was given the choice of a bus ticket to Mexico or jail time in the U.S. He understandably chose the bus ticket to Tijuana. After being deposited across the border, he immediately called his mom and had her bring his wallet and identification to him. Later, he and his mom reentered the U.S. easily and without incident.
The young man was, of course, an American citizen who had learned the tricks of the trade in the border regions. Commit a crime in the U.S. and, if caught, claim illegal immigrant status and escape the punishment of a jail term.
Not surprisingly, things have gotten even worse today. Sanctuary cities are making changes to local criminal laws so that fewer illegal alien criminals have to make that arduous round trip. Illegal aliens convicted of crimes are being protected from deportation by changes in sentencing laws.
The city council of the sanctuary city of Denver this past week reduced penalties for many misdemeanor crimes in order to avoid having illegal aliens — who are picked up after committing many of these various offenses — reach the penalty threshold that would prompt a notification to ICE. Among the crimes for which sentences were reduced included the first or second charge of domestic violence! Certainly, Donna Hylton, a convicted murder and kidnapper who so eloquently lambasted white, male America at the Women’s March in Washington will soon be hurling filthy epithets at the Denver Mayor and City Council for passing such a misogynistic. Or perhaps not. We haven’t heard a dirty word from her or any of the other leaders of the women’s movement to date. And, of course, we will not.
Denver is not the only sanctuary city to act so irresponsibly. Others like New York and San Francisco — and the entire sanctuary state of California — have gone further.
Apparently, it is not enough for a sanctuary city to be “welcoming” to illegal aliens; laws must be changed to minimize their vulnerabilities under federal law. This is a step beyond merely declaring a policy of non-cooperation with federal immigration law enforcement. Changing local criminal laws to protect illegal immigrants who commit crimes is a step past “non-cooperation” into active sabotage of federal immigration law.
Political hypocrisy always has a bad odor to it, but galloping cynicism on immigration matters does more than stink — it undermines the foundations of the rule of law.
So-called sanctuary policies are clearly illegal under 8 U.S.C. 1373 when they block federal law enforcement, and under President Trump, the Department of Justice is taking steps to withhold federal grants funding from those jurisdictions.
But changing the maximum sentences to reduce criminal aliens’ vulnerability to deportation is actually more nefarious and more consequential over the long run. Such actions constitute a cynical willingness to subvert the federal-state partnership essential to effective law enforcement.
Changes in sentencing guidelines to protect one class of resident is also both a cynical and hypocritical slap in the face to the constitutional principle of equal protection of the law. This reminds me of the double standard implicit in the “family unity” objection to deporting a family breadwinner: Do American citizens convicted of crimes get lighter sentences if a prison term means leaving a spouse and children at home?
It is also cynical because the predictable result of such changes in criminal sentencing is to place the law-abiding residents in immigrant communities at greater risk. A decline in the number of criminal aliens deported merely means a corresponding increase in the number of criminals at large in our communities.
The rhetoric coming from the movement for sentencing reform in sanctuary cities is using the bogeyman of Trump’s executive orders to galvanize opposition to increased deportation of criminal aliens — despite the fact that the Trump enforcement policies announced thus far are based entirely on existing immigration laws that have been on the books at least since the Bill Clinton presidency.
Neither President Trump nor Attorney General Sessions have called for the immediate deportation of literally all criminal aliens. The problem is that the Obama administration’s lax enforcement of immigration laws and declining deportation numbers established a false sense of security among hundreds of thousands of criminal aliens who were lawfully deportable under current law.
The fact is, when an illegal alien attracts the attention of ICE due to a criminal conviction, that does not mean automatic deportation for that individual. However, those decisions are properly a matter for federal immigration courts to decide on a case-by-case basis.
If the enforcement of federal immigration law is to be left to federal agencies and not local law enforcement — as sanctuary cities are demanding — then local politicians — and governors — should keep their hands off as well.