The Issue with Sanctuary Cities
Sanctuary cities are an outdated way of combating America’s immigration policy, and sensible restrictions must be placed regarding their unwillingness to cooperate with the federal law.
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The verdict of Zarate’s case emphasizes failures not only in the obstruction of justice, but also in the foundation of some of these very cities.
Almost two years ago in San Francisco, Kate Steinle was walking with her father and a family friend when she was shot and killed by illegal immigrant Jose Zarate. Zarate, Steinle’s murderer, had been released from jail only three months after the shooting, despite being requested by federal authorities to be detained for deportation long beforehand.
The trial finally took place a month ago, with a shocking verdict: Zarate walked away charged with solely the possession of a firearm and involuntary manslaughter, as opposed to first or second degree murder. His defense team had argued that Zarate found the gun along the pier, and it “just fired,” a story that the jury bought entirely. Despite his extensive rap sheet, proof that the gun was stolen, and the prosecution’s assurances that the shots were deliberate, Zarate was officially acquitted.
This incident has since reignited the controversy over America’s immigration policy: particularly the issue with sanctuary cities. True to their moniker, these safe havens for illegal aliens limit how much local law enforcement can comply with federal immigration authorities. San Francisco, for example, passed an ordinance in 1989 which prohibits city employees from complying with I.C.E. workers unless absolutely mandated by law. Many cities across the U.S., such as Newark, East Orange, and Jersey City, have since followed suit, and despite outrage from many right-wing politicians, they have stubbornly kept their compliance with I.C.E. agents minimal.
Jose Zarate was one of many undocumented immigrants taking advantage of the policy in sanctuary cities. However, his circumstance isn’t unique. A 2005 study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined the cases of over 55,000 illegal immigrants incarcerated in federal, state or local prisons. It was found that roughly half of them were previously convicted of a felony, a fifth had been arrested for drug offenses, and they had been arrested an average of seven times each.
A more recent 2011 GAO report details more of a similar trend. The criminal histories of about 251,000 illegal immigrants showed they committed close to three million criminal offenses. Though these numbers are smaller than that of incarcerated naturalized-citizens, they outweigh the latter disproportionately. According to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the violent crime rate in sanctuary cities exceeds that of non-sanctuary cities. This discrepancy can be chalked up to such a leniency toward the law that encourages residents to silently accept this excessive restraint of justice. People who are already prone to breaking the law are essentially told there are little to no repercussions, and it’s their statuses as illegal immigrants that allow them to embrace such a culture.
Repeated offenders also tend to put a strain on law enforcement, forsaking both their lives and the extent to which they can exercise authority. After multiple repeat offenses, the danger of keeping these people within society is pervasive, and the options police are given to deal with the issue are lacking. In lieu of deportation (which the crimes of many of these illegal immigrants are more than deserving of), police and law enforcement officials are forced to waste resources and manpower on the same criminals time and time again.
Not only does this jeopardize the safety of residents of sanctuary cities, it also imposes costs they shouldn’t have to bear. The incarceration of illegal aliens alone (according to the same study) costs about $1.6 billion annually from fiscal years 2005 to 2009, and this number is only continuing to rise. These same tax dollars ought to be properly put to use for residents who paid them, but are instead forced to be used toward services for people who aren’t entitled to them in the first place.
Steinle’s murder sheds light on some of these complications, motivating Congress to pen “Kate’s Law,” a piece of legislation that increases the penalties for deported persons who return to the U.S. and get caught. While the House managed to pass this legislation, a federal judge has recently blocked President Trump’s executive order to deny funding to sanctuary cities, deeming it unconstitutional. The judge even went as far as to say, “Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the President disapproves.”
But cutting funding isn’t the only way for the Trump administration to get sanctuary cities to help with the deportation of illegal immigrants who’ve proved incompetent at complying with American standards. Several counties defy even the bare minimum amount of cooperation with the law, such as instructing police to never ask for someone’s immigration status or even setting up defense funds for illegal immigrants paid for through taxes.
These sorts of actions tip-toe across the line between “lawful” and “unlawful” far too often. Enabling them to persist only solidifies a dangerous sentiment, allowing cities to persistently evade policies. And though Trump’s actions were certainly misguided, his administration had valid intentions. Sanctuary cities are an outdated way of combating America’s immigration policy, and sensible restrictions must be placed regarding their unwillingness to cooperate with the federal law. Prosecutors should not be allowed to drop criminal charges against undocumented immigrants for risk of deportation, and extremely limited government assistance should be given to individuals who exhibit no regard for the law over and over again.
Allowing sanctuary cities to continue existing in the U.S. as they do now only breeds this innate disrespect for the law. The verdict of Zarate’s case emphasizes failures not only in the obstruction of justice, but also in the foundation of some of these very cities. Steinle’s fate has managed to shed a national spotlight on the recklessness of their approach toward illegal aliens who don’t uphold the law. It needs to be made clear that America won’t stand for it any longer.