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By Michael McManus

On March 28, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the results of a major immigration enforcement operation conducted March 11 through March 25.  This operation specifically targeted criminal aliens convicted of drug trafficking or drug possession-related offenses involving methamphetamine, fentanyl, cocaine, heroin, or synthetic drugs. The operation took place in major cities nationwide and more than half of the targeted suspects (216 of 419) were successfully arrested. Together, these criminal aliens had a combined total of 456 convictions, including sex offenses.  Over 100 of the targets had been previously deported from the U.S. and illegally returned.

In announcing the raid, ICE officials emphasized the importance of detainers in immigration enforcement. A detainer is a request made by ICE to local law enforcement agencies, asking them to hold the subject in custody until ICE personnel can arrest before release.  As Acting Director of ICE, Patrick J. Lechleitner, described, using a detainer allows ICE to arrest criminal aliens in a controlled environment.  He said: “Let me be clear, there are inherent risks to chasing down and arresting potentially dangerous non-citizens in our communities… The fact is, [when] we have to arrest someone who is at large in the community, it’s inherently more dangerous. It’s dangerous for our officers, it’s dangerous for the noncitizen who’s running from justice and it’s dangerous for the innocent people in our communities.”

Lechleitner also described how sanctuary cities and states impede ICE’s ability to enforce the law. These “sanctuary jurisdictions” adopt laws that, among other things, prohibit local officials from honoring ICE detainers. That means that criminal aliens are instead released onto the streets instead of being deported. Lechleitner lamented, “We always hope that law enforcement agencies will honor our detainers so we can pick up potentially dangerous non-citizens before they’re released into our communities. And to be frank, in some areas there are laws that affect the ability for state and local law enforcement to cooperate with ICE.  So we’re trying to make progress in areas that are a little less ‘ICE-friendly.”  Ultimately, he said, “it’s better all-around when law enforcement agencies honor our detainers to keep people like the 216 arrested in this operation off our streets.”

Until 2017, ICE routinely issued reports on the number of detainers that local jurisdictions refused to honor. In just a single week at the end of January 2017, there were 206 instances of detainers not being honored. Among the highest-volume jurisdictions for non-compliance were the “sanctuary counties” of Cook County (Chicago) and Clark County (Las Vegas). The scale of both illegal alien crime and refusals to cooperate in acting against it is frightening, and speaks to the disregard these jurisdictions’ leaders appear to have for both the rule of law and the safety of their constituents.

Many proponents of sanctuary policies argue that cities and states need to shield illegal aliens from immigration officials, otherwise they will not cooperate with local police and report crimes. However, this is simply not a valid argument. Refusing to honor ICE detainers puts everyone at risk, especially illegal aliens, because many illegal alien criminals victimize their own communities. Allowing dangerous drug traffickers like the ones arrested here the freedom to operate in local communities only compounds the problem.

One of the most recent and high-profile tragedies to come from the refusal to honor ICE detainers was the murder of Laken Riley in Georgia. Her alleged killer, Jose Ibarra, had been previously arrested for child endangerment in New York City. However, the New York Police Department – notorious for its sanctuary policies— released him before ICE could assume custody, and this allowed him to move to Georgia, where he was charged with murdering the 22 year-old nursing student. However, her story is nowhere near the first, and sadly it will certainly not be the last tragedy to come from refusing to honor detainers.

While these recent comments by ICE regarding detainers are a welcome development, they fall far short of what the Biden Administration could do if it were serious about ending sanctuary policies.  The Department of Justice, for example, could sue states that have policies that prohibit maintaining immigration information or otherwise prohibit communication with federal immigration agents in violation of 8 U.S.C. 1873.  It could also deny federal funding to sanctuary jurisdictions that have other sanctuary policies.  The President could ask Congress to take action and adopt stricter limits on state and local policies affecting immigration.  However, the Biden Administration has done none of these things.  For the moment, it seems all it will do is talk.

Author: FAIR


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