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The Facts —
- US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Fugitive Operations teams arrested 498 individuals in an operation called “Safe City” that spanned four days and ended Wednesday 27 September.
- The arrests were made for federal immigration violations in multiple cities across 42 counties throughout the US.
- Of the 498 arrested, 317 of those individuals have criminal convictions and 18 are known gang members or “affiliates,” according to an ICE press release published on Thursday:
- ICE clarified that individuals with active Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status were not targeted for these arrests, adding in its press release:
“The operation targeted individuals who have violated US immigration laws, prioritizing aliens with criminal convictions, pending criminal charges, known gang members and affiliates, immigration fugitives and those who re-entered the US after deportation.”
- The nearly 500 Operation Safe City arrests took place in the following locations:
- Baltimore (28);
- Cook County, Illinois (30);
- Denver (63);
- Los Angeles (101);
- Massachusetts (50);
- New York (45);
- Philadelphia (107);
- Seattle (33);
- Santa Clara County, California (27);
- and Washington, DC (14).
- ICE said those arrested will be processed in the following manner:
“Some of the individuals arrested during this operation will face federal criminal prosecutions for illegal entry and illegal re-entry after removal. The arrestees who are not being federally prosecuted will be processed administratively for removal from the United States. Those who have outstanding orders of removal, or who returned to the United States illegally after being removed, are subject to immediate removal from the country. The remaining individuals are in ICE custody awaiting a hearing before an immigration judge, or pending travel arrangements for removal in the near future.”
The Context —
- “Operation ‘Safe City’ focused on cities and regions where ICE deportation officers are denied access to jails and prisons to interview suspected immigration violators or jurisdictions where ICE detainers are not honored,” ICE said.
- The ICE detainer policy reads as follows:
“ICE places detainers on aliens who have been arrested on local criminal charges and for whom ICE possesses probable cause to believe that they are removable from the United States, so that ICE can take custody of the alien when he or she is released from local custody. When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission.”
- President Donald Trump’s administration has been vocal about cracking down on so-called “sanctuary cities.”
- CNN Politics defines “sanctuary cities” as “jurisdictions that have policies in place designed to limit cooperation with or involvement in federal immigration enforcement actions. Cities, counties and some states have a range of informal policies as well as actual laws that qualify as ‘sanctuary’ positions.”
- These informal and formal policies are out in place to protect undocumented individuals residing in the US from the threat of detainment and eventual deportation.
- Trump issued an executive order on 25 January, which has been blocked in part by a federal judge in San Francisco, that sought to deny federal funding to localities with “sanctuary” policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
- San Francisco-based US District Court Judge William Orrick wrote in April:
“If there was doubt about the scope of the Order, the President and Attorney General have erased it with their public comments. The Constitution vests the spending power in Congress, not the President, so the Order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds.”
- The Department of Justice appealed that decision to the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on 18 September.
- The DOJ’s attempt in July to limit future federal grants to “sanctuary cities” by requiring cities that receive a certain grant to allow federal immigration authorities access to their jails and requiring local authorities to give immigration agents notice before suspected illegal immigrants are about to be released from custody was also blocked by US District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber in September, acting on a lawsuit brought by the City of Chicago. Judge Leinenweber wrote:
“Congress may well have Spending Clause power to impose the conditions or delegate to the Executive Branch the power to impose them, including the notice and access condition, but it must exert that power through statute.”
- Deportation of criminals, who were also in violation of immigration laws , had also been a focus of President Barack Obama’s administration, as outlined by the Chicago Tribune in February.
- The Chicago Tribune reported that Obama deported over two million individuals while he was in office, with a focus on deporting immigrants in the US illegally who posed a threat to national security or public safety and those who recently crossed the border.
- Obama deported the record number of more than 409,000 of those individuals in 2012 with the assistance of a program called Secure Communities hat helped the government find immigrants in the country illegally who had been arrested.
- Immigration officials said in February that raids occurring around that time in Los Angeles were not a result of Trump administration policy. The Chicago Tribune reported:
“David Marin, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s field office director for enforcement and removal operations in greater Los Angeles, said the agency carries out these operations two or three times a year in his region. He says the [early 2017] California operation was in the planning stages ‘before the administration came out with their current executive orders.’”
- ICE acting Director Tom Homan said in his statement form 29 September that policies of non-cooperation like those in place in “sanctuary cities” attract illegal immigration, forcing ICE to use more resources in its efforts in those communities.
Critics of “Sanctuary Cities” —
- ICE acting Director Tom Homan said in the statement released on 29 September:
“Sanctuary jurisdictions that do not honor detainers or allow us access to jails and prisons are shielding criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and creating a magnet for illegal immigration. As a result, ICE is forced to dedicate more resources to conduct at-large arrests in these communities.”
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement released on 25 July:
“So-called ‘sanctuary’ policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes. These policies also encourage illegal immigration and even human trafficking by perpetuating the lie that in certain cities, illegal aliens can live outside the law…
As part of accomplishing the Department of Justice’s top priority of reducing violent crime, we must encourage these ‘sanctuary’ jurisdictions to change their policies and partner with federal law enforcement to remove criminals.”
- Sessions wrote in an opinion piece for the San Francisco Chronicle in April:
“Supporters [of ‘sanctuary cities’] say ‘sanctuary’ policies help fight crime by encouraging illegal immigrants to report crimes without fear of deportation. But how can we fight crime by allowing criminal aliens whom the law requires to be deported to stay in our country? And how does it promote the rule of law when our citizens see their leaders disregard the law? …
I want San Francisco and other cities to re-evaluate these policies and recognize that we must have a lawful immigration system that keeps us safe, upholds the rule of law, and serves our national interest. The American people want, and deserve, nothing less.”
Supporters of “Sanctuary Cities” —
- University of California, Berkeley Professor of Health Policy and Politics Helen A Halpin, ScM, PhD, said on 29 September:
— ProfHelen (@Helenhs) September 29, 2017
- Founder and CEO of Define American Jose Antonio Vargas wrote in an opinion piece for the San Francisco Chronicle in April:
“Sanctuary cities are good for everyone, documented and undocumented. A community that promises to protect all of its members thrives…
Whatever views US Attorney General Jeff Sessions may hold on illegal immigration, he cannot argue with the fact that local police have enough on their hands without doing the work of the federal immigration authorities. To jeopardize Americans’ safety, immigrant or not, in the name of ignorance, fear and political capital would be irresponsible, and a failure to focus on protecting people…
When cities, counties and even states put sanctuary statutes in place, they’re taking the pressure off local law enforcement to aid in the inhumane practice of rounding up people. As a result, communities have officers with smaller burdens and community members who are more engaged. Sanctuary cities mean stronger communities.”
- Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said as part of a statement tweeted on 3 August:
“Baltimore is a welcoming city. We do not enforce federal immigration laws. We do not ask people questions about their immigration status. We do, however, enforce the criminal laws of the state of Maryland and honor criminal arrest warrants obtained by federal law enforcement agencies.”
Stephanie Haney contributed to this report.