2 b often disparaging : a person primarily interested in political office for selfish or other narrow usually short-sighted reasons
By Andrew Lelling UPDATED: February 10, 2020 at 8:38 pm
“Sanctuary cities” — a politicized euphemism for cities and towns that pride themselves on resisting federal laws passed by Congress and designed to ensure our safety — have become a genuine and persistent threat to our communities and the rule of law.
As to the first, and as Attorney General William Barr warned during a recent announcement about the Trump administration’s steps to counter sanctuary cities, when local authorities refuse to cooperate with ICE all they have done is make it harder to protect their own law-abiding residents. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is not randomly plucking people off the streets; it is prioritizing the arrest of those who (a) knowingly entered the United States illegally and (b) are now engaged in other criminal activity, are gang-affiliated, or bear some other indicator that they are a risk to the public. In fiscal 2019, ICE made 2,469 civil arrests in the New England region. Approximately 90% of these arrestees had prior criminal convictions or arrests on criminal charges. ICE’s removals that year were the highest in five years and, again, the majority of those removed were convicted criminals. This should be utterly uncontroversial. In fact, it should be applauded.
Nor does anything under state law – including the Supreme Judicial Court’s Lunn decision — prevent local authorities from cooperating with ICE, short of holding someone in custody longer than state law requires. But various towns and cities are increasingly hostile to ICE’s efforts to enforce federal law, as if engaged in some kind of competition to see who can be the least helpful. Boston now appears to be in the lead, having passed a new “Trust Act” in December. Under that law, if someone snuck into the United States, settled in Boston, sold heroin, and killed someone, the Boston Police would be legally barred from helping ICE arrest that person for deportation. This is good public policy?
The results are predictable. Locally, ICE agents now routinely expend resources tracking down dangerous felons who are here illegally, since prisons and jails refuse to notify ICE in advance of these people being released into our communities. This includes recently released illegal immigrants who served time for kidnapping, violent assault, involuntary manslaughter, assault and battery on a corrections officer, and drug and gun trafficking. That’s in the last two months.
Meanwhile, our residents fall victim to violent crimes committed by people who, if there was a secure border and better cooperation with immigration authorities, wouldn’t be here at all. In 2017, a man previously deported for drug and gun crimes — but now illegally back in the United States — raped a Boston College student while working as an Uber driver. Despite knowing his immigration status, a judge in Newton gave him bail and local authorities released him. No one notified ICE. He fled the country, and that young woman has yet to see justice done. In 2018, a previously deported Salvadoran national slashed a woman’s throat in a town near Boston. Local police knew he was here illegally but never notified ICE. Luckily, the U.S. Marshals did, and the man was arrested in Maryland.
Andrew Lelling is U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts.