Ending Sanctuary Cities
We must get clear on the meaning of the term “sanctuary city” before we can perform a proper assessment of this measure. The term probably originated in the 1980s and it referred to churches that sheltered refugees who fled from violence in Guatemala and El Salvador. Today, it’s difficult to figure out the proper object of the term. Attorney Lena Graber states the problem this way:
“There is no definition of a sanctuary city,” says Lena Graber, an attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco. She says different places have taken different approaches. “There are a lot of sanctuary policies that are more just about not asking about immigration status by city agencies or law enforcement,” she says, while other jurisdictions are called “sanctuaries” because their jails won’t hold people at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Perhaps this term is used to label cities that do not ‘cooperate’ with federal law enforcement agencies. Which cities are guilty of this infraction? If cities are guilty of being uncooperative, they seem to do so out of deference to the 4th Amendment or practical reasons. NPR writes:
… the jails that don’t honor ICE “detainer” requests often do it for reasons that are practical, not political.
The jail in Lafayette Parish, La., for instance, stopped honoring ICE detainers out of a fear of lawsuits by people who might be able to claim they’re being held illegally.
“We’re depriving them of their liberty,” says Sheriff Mark Garber, “on a suspicion that hadn’t been investigated promptly or acted on at all.”
Sheriff Garber says when his predecessor realized the federal government wouldn’t indemnify the parish in case of lawsuits, he stopped honoring ICE detainer requests. But that led to accusations that the parish had become a “sanctuary,” especially during the last sheriff’s election. So when Garber took over, he instituted a compromise policy: the Lafeyette jail will hold people, but for no longer than 48 hours.
“I’m still taking a risk to cooperate with the federal government, because they’re not offering me any reciprocal protection,” Garber says. “I still think we’re exposed, but I’m choosing as the leader in this community to go ahead and draw the bright line at the 48 hours.”
Those bright lines are drawn differently in almost every jurisdiction. The King County jail in downtown Seattle, for instance, has a policy of honoring only the ICE detainer requests that come with an order from a judge. Other places take the severity of the person’s criminal record into account.
I suspect that the kind of city Trump has in mind is San Francisco .
On the evening of July 1, 2015, Kate Steinle was killed by an undocumented immigrate. The alleged shooter is Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez. He said he found the gun wrapped in a T-shirt and accidentally shot Steinle. There is evidence to rebut his claim. The gun was stolen on June 27, 2015 from the personal vehicle of an officer of the Bureau of Land Management and the window of the vehicle was broken.
Lopez-Sanchez has a felony record and was deported five times. Steinle’s family filed a lawsuit that calls San Francisco a sanctuary city. Trump has vowed to pass legislation in her name.
There are some mitigating factors in the case against the city of San Francisco, however. First, none of Lopez-Sanchez’s felony convictions were for violent crimes. Second, the ICE detainer request would have done nothing to save Steinle’s life because it requires detention for only 48 additional hours. As was said earlier, Steinle was killed on July 1, 2015, but Lopez-Sanchez was released from the San Francisco County Jail on April 15, 2015.
More than 200 state and local jurisdictions have policies that could be labeled as sanctuary policies. Policies like these exist in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, Florida, Iowa, and Colorado.
Why would any jurisdiction adopt such policies?
The first reason a jurisdiction might adopt these policies is because immigration enforcement falls within the purview of the federal government. Second, the ICE detainer request requires a person to jail someone without a warrant. Third, victims of crimes may be reluctant to come forward out fear of deportation, thus leading to criminals who may go free to commit more crimes for lack of evidence.
A case in Portland, Oregon reveals the legal and monetary liabilities of ‘cooperating’ with the ICE detainer. Here are the results of a federal case brought against Clackamas County:
The case originated in Portland, Oregon, and a federal magistrate judge ruled that an undocumented immigrant’s rights had been violated after she was held in county jail for 19 hours past her original release date. The ruling left Clackamas County liable for damages, putting small town departments on the hook for lawsuits if immigrants decided to take legal action for being unlawfully detained.
The ruling had a large-scale ripple effect across the country. All told, there are now 364 counties and 39 cities that refuse to cooperate with ICE, according to data collected by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. Police chiefs and sheriffs decided that it was no longer worth opening up their departments to lawsuits in order to simply do ICE a favor.
What do you think?