(CNSNews.com) – In a White House press briefing Thursday, a top immigration enforcement official said sanctuary cities make it almost impossible to fulfill a priority of the Trump administration—pushing back against the MS-13 gang.
“Sanctuary cities are a criminal's biggest friend,” said Tom Homan, acting director of the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement.
Criminal organizations like MS-13 that smuggle drugs, weapons, and people, according to Homan, use sanctuary cities as a form of advertisement.
“If you're an alien smuggler and you're smuggling people in this country for a living, that is one sales pitch – ‘we can get you to a sanctuary city that will help shield you from immigration,’” he said.
“If we send the message that if you get into the country, you get by the Border Patrol, and don't get arrested by local law enforcement for another crime, and no one is looking for you -- that is a magnet; that is a pull factor,” Homan added.
Spaces such as these, Homan said, spark incidents like the one he responded to in Victoria, Texas, where he found a five-year-old among 19 dead illegal aliens tied to a tractor trailer.
“What do you think that five-year-old went through the last 30 minutes of his life? What do you think his father went through the last 30 minutes of his life looking down at his child, knowing he couldn’t help him because they were locked in the back of a tractor trailer?” Homan said.
But immigrants and local citizens are not the only ones in danger in these areas.
“Sanctuary cities not only endanger public safety, they endanger my law enforcement officers, because when we can't get a criminal alien -- violent alien -- out of a county jail, it means one of our officers will knock on the door -- which anybody in law enforcement knows, that's one of the most dangerous things to do,” Homan said.
“The community is put at risk, our officers are put at risk, and the alien himself is put at risk.”
Homan repeatedly called for a strong local partnership across these sanctuary cities to aid the effort of dismantling MS-13, since it is the state and local law enforcement that have the first contact with this transnational gang.
“Cooperation is critical,” he said. “Sanctuary cities need to help us keep their community safe.”
Ignoring the illegal population that commit egregious crimes in these sanctuary cities means “bankrolling these criminal organizations,” Homan said.
“If you're in sanctuary cities, that's where we'll send additional resources to look for you at your home, at place of employment,” he said.
Although sanctuary cities still pose as a major obstacle, Homan believes progress is being made. More and more local law enforcement from many jurisdictions are coming to the table, he said.
“The 287(g) agreements -- we've already doubled those agreements on this administration,” Homan said. “ICE expects to triple the number of these agreements by the end of this year.”