Weekly Columns

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently set an arrest record for a four-day operation to round-up criminal undocumented immigrants – 244 people were taken into federal custody in Southern California. While all had criminal records, the majority had been convicted of at least one felony. So why were these violent offenders on the streets? ICE agents blame “sanctuary” policies for allowing them to be released from custody. 

There are 340 sanctuary cities that offer save-havens for illegal immigrants. These communities ignore federal immigration law and protect illegal immigrants from deportation. 

This is unacceptable. We are a country of laws. We cannot pick and choose which laws to follow. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is going on in some communities across the country, and President Obama’s directives to stop enforcing certain immigration laws are contributing to this problem. 

Sanctuary cities should be held accountable for their failure to cooperate in the enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws. The Senate has an opportunity to reform this policy, make our communities safer and uphold our laws with the upcoming vote targeting this policy. As a cosponsor of the Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act, I’m leading the fight to hold sanctuary cities responsible for their dangerous practices. This legislation restricts federal funding from sanctuary states or cities that fail to comply with federal immigration enforcement. The bill would redirect these funds to localities that follow the law. 

Since 2009, news outlets have reported a 40 percent decline in removals of illegal individuals living and working in the country. According to ICE, in 2014 approximately 30,558 deportable illegal immigrants that deemed to pose a criminal threat were released. 

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson recently said that this kind of opposition to immigration law is counterproductive to providing the safety that our law enforcement have sworn to protect. I agree. We must protect citizens from potentially dangerous individuals by enforcing our laws. 

The tragic death of 32-year-old Kate Steinle demonstrates the need for this action. An illegal immigrant killed Steinle on July 1, 2015 while she was visiting Pier 14 in San Francisco. This perpetrator was a convicted felon who should have been behind bars, but because of the local sanctuary policy, was released from custody and walking the streets. 

The safety of innocent citizens is threatened and so is that of ICE agents who work to arrest those criminal immigrants who were released from custody. 

In a letter sent in mid-October to Assistant Secretary Sarah Saldaña, Senate and House Judiciary Committee Chairmen Chuck Grassley and Bob Goodlatte raised concerns about the safety risks and taxpayer costs associated with ICE’s recent round-up of illegal criminals who were already in law enforcement custody, but were released based on the local sanctuary policy. 

I am confident that my colleagues will share the response from DHS so we can make the necessary policy changes in order to protect the safety of our citizens and law enforcement officers and save taxpayer dollars. 

As a member of the Border Security and Enforcement First Caucus I will continue to push for measures that address the issues of border security, illegal documentation and the general lack of action from our judicial system to hold accountable those who break the law.