Immigrant supporters protest Trump plans to cut sanctuary city funding
Immigrant supporters protest Trump plans to cut sanctuary city fundingReuters

Mayors of so-called sanctuary cities were just put on notice by ICE.

The acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is fed up with local officials of these cities who endanger their communities and risk the lives of law enforcement by refusing to cooperate with the agency, The Washington Times reported.

Thomas Homan is now looking at arresting mayors and other leaders of sanctuary cities on charges of violating federal anti-smuggling laws.

“Shame on people that want to put politics ahead of officer safety, community safety,” he told the Times, explaining how the leaders are enacting policies that prevent local police from cooperating with ICE.

The cities refuse to hold migrants beyond their regular release time and block all communication with ICE, including notifying agents when criminals who should be deported are about to be released back into the community, reports Bizpac Review.

The proponents of sanctuary city policies claim that both legal and illegal immigrants afraid of cooperating with ICE will be less likely to report other crimes as well, claiming that poses a larger threat to the community than the release of convicted criminals.

“It’s a matter of time before one of my officers is seriously hurt or doesn’t go home because someone made a political decision on the backs of my officers,” Homan said, pointing out a section of federal code - 8 U.S.C. 1324 - that outlaws attempts to “conceal, harbor, or shield” illegal immigrants.

“We’re looking at what options we have,” he said, responding to whether he will recommend prosecutions.

The penalty for violating the law is five years in prison in most instances but that could be increased to include life in prison or even death if someone is killed during the crime, according to the Times.

Agents and officers have been unshackled from the limits imposed by Mr. Obama, whose rules restricted arrests to less than 20 percent of the estimated illegal immigrant population.

Now, most illegal immigrants are eligible for deportation, though Mr. Homan said serious criminals, recent border crossers and people who are actively defying deportation orders are still the agency’s priorities.

He said the biggest impediment to expanding deportations is no longer ICE priority, but rather a huge backlog in the immigration courts, which are part of the Justice Department. Migrants who in the past would have admitted their unauthorized status and accepted deportation are now fighting their cases.

“They can play the system for a long time,” he said.

With a shift in attitude from Washington, immigration enforcement agents have been freed from limits set by the previous administration. And while the support from President Trump and his get-tough approach to illegal immigration has had an impact, Homan was not sure he would be able to break the record for deportations this year.

That deportation record was actually set under former President Obama.

“I think 409,000 is a stretch this year, but if [the Justice Department] keeps going in the direction they’re going in, if we continue to expand our operational footprint, I think we’re going to get there,” Homan told the Times. “Our interior arrests will go up. They’re going to top last year’s for sure.”

But emboldened migrants in these sanctuary cities are now fighting their deportation cases in the courtrooms and local officials who impede the agency’s efforts to deport the criminals upon release from prison add to the challenges faced by ICE.

Blocking ICE agents from accessing law enforcement databases to track down suspects and impeding the agents is a form of resistance that Homan finds enraging.

“I think these sanctuary cities need to make sure they’re on the right side of the law,” he said. “They need to look at this. Because I am.”