Commentary

Obama Administration Rewards Sanctuary Cities That Shield Violent Illegal Immigrants

Tom Fitton
By Tom Fitton | August 10, 2016 | 9:24 AM EDT

Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez (right) is led into the courtroom by San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi and Assistant District Attorney Diana Garciaor for his arraignment at the Hall of Justice in San Francisco on July 7, 2015. More than 1,800 immigrants that the federal government wanted to deport were nevertheless released from local jails and later re-arrested for various crimes, according to a government report released July 13, 2015. The controversy was re-ignited after 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle was shot to death while walking on a San Francisco pier and authorities arrested suspect Lopez-Sanchez, who was released from jail in April even though immigration officials had lodged a detainer to try to deport him from the country for a sixth time. (AP Photo/Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle)

You and I are less safe on the streets these days because President Barack Obama and his Justice Department reward localities that openly break the law. Our Corruption Chronicles blog has the disturbing story:

“The Obama Administration rewards sanctuary states, counties and cities that shield violent illegal immigrants from deportation with hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants and one of the biggest recipients recently made headlines for protecting a serial criminal who murdered a young woman.

“The money flows through the Department of Justice (DOJ), the agency responsible for enforcing the law and defending the interests of the United States. The DOJ is also charged with providing federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime, according to its mission statement, and seeking just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior.

“Apparently this doesn’t apply to local governments that support the president’s broad open borders policies, even when they violate federal law. The DOJ doled out $342,168,401 to 10 sanctuary states and cities that proudly reject federal claims for criminal illegal aliens earmarked for removal, according to the agency’s independent watchdog.

“Among them is Connecticut, a trailblazer in the sanctuary movement that received more than $69 million in grants from the DOJ. Connecticut has long protected illegal immigrants with sanctuary policies and even offers them special drivers’ licenses, known as Drive Only. The state also gives illegal aliens discounted tuition at public colleges and universities and authorities work hard to restrict the feds from deporting illegal immigrants. Last year an illegal immigrant who had spent 17 years in prison for attempted murder stabbed a 25-year-old woman to death in Norwich, a city of about 40,000 residents.  The murderer had been earmarked for deportation at least three times.

“California, also a renowned sanctuary state that offers illegal immigrants a number of taxpayer-funded perks, topped the list with $132,409,635 in DOJ grants. Judicial Watch has investigated the state’s illegal sanctuary policies for years and back in 2008 launched a California public records request with the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department to obtain the arrest and booking information on Edwin Ramos, an illegal alien from El Salvador who murdered three innocent American citizens. Ramos was a member of a renowned violent street gang and had been convicted of two felonies as a juvenile (a gang-related assault on a bus passenger and the attempted robbery of a pregnant woman), yet he was allowed to remain in the country.

“Last year Judicial Watch obtained records showing that violent crime—including murder and rape—in the Bay area has skyrocketed since the San Francisco Sheriff and City Council expanded illegal alien sanctuary policies in 2013.  Under the ordinance San Francisco law enforcement agencies are required to ignore most U.S. Immigration and “Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers. Judicial Watch is also investigating whether the city violated the law again with its sanctuary policy that led to the release of Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an illegal immigrant deported five times who gunned down Kate Steinle at one of the most popular tourist spots in San Francisco.

“Two cities—New York and Chicago—got $60,091,942 and $28,523,222 respectively from the DOJ and Philadelphia followed with $16,505,312. South Florida’s Miami-Dade County received $10,778,815, Milwaukee, Wisconsin got $7,539,572, Cook County, Illinois $6,018,544, Clark County, Nevada $6,257,9851 and Orleans Parish, Louisiana $4,737,964.

“In some cases elected officials in these municipalities brag about defying federal immigration laws – with no consequences.

  • The mayor of Chicago is mentioned in the DOJ Inspector General report for publicly stating: “We are not going to turn people over to ICE, and we are not going to check their immigration status.” The city also prohibits employees from cooperating with federal immigration authorities, the report says.
  • The Orleans Parish (La.) Sheriff’s Office has an “ICE Procedures” policy that states the agency shall not initiate any immigration status investigation into individuals in their custody or provide the feds with information on an inmate’s release date or address.
  • Philadelphia’s mayor issued an executive order stating that the pending release of the subject of an ICE immigration detainer shall not be provided to the agency unless the person has been convicted of a felony.
  • New York enacted a law years ago restricting jail personnel from communicating with ICE regarding an inmate’s release date, incarceration status or court dates. The law resulted in ICE closing its office on Riker’s Island and ceasing operations on any other NYC Department of Corrections property, the report reveals.

“It’s beyond comprehension that these law-breaking local governments are being rewarded with federal funds distributed by the agency responsible for enforcing the law.”

The good news is the Justice Department IG agrees with Judicial Watch’s legal concerns about sanctuary cities – concerns that we have sued repeatedly over (most recently in San Francisco).  In city after city, the IG concludes that sanctuary policies that tie the hands of police cooperation with the feds on immigration matters are “inconsistent with the plain language of Section 1373 [federal law] prohibiting a local government from restricting a local official from sending immigration status information to ICE.”

Because of this IG analysis – and most importantly pressure from Congressman John Culbertson (R-TX) – the Obama Justice Department reversed course and is now requiring recipients of Justice Department grant monies to certify that they are complying with federal immigration law.  Cities with sanctuary policies can’t do this – so the spigot of tax dollars for this lawlessness may actually be turned off finally.

We often criticize how Congress has dropped the ball on immigration matters and the rule of law.  However, Congressman Culbertson, head of a powerful appropriations subcommittee, used the law and the powers granted to his office under the U.S. Constitution, to force the Obama administration to comply with and enforce the law.  You can see the details here.  The battle isn’t over yet – and Judicial Watch independently will monitor the Obama gang’s compliance.  In the meantime, you may want to share your views on Rep. Culberson’s effective work with him directly.

Tom Fitton is the President of Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption. Founded in 1994, Judicial Watch seeks to ensure government and judicial officials act ethically and do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American public.