By Lou Ann Anderson | Watchdog Arena
Sanctuary cities, along with select counties and even states, often shield criminal aliens from federal immigration law enforcement including deportation actions. They are the focus of new nationwide controversy as an alleged illegal alien suspect arrested in the murder of Kathryn Steinle, a 32-year-old woman shot dead July 1 in San Francisco, appears to have been protected by such policy. As Texas has numerous locales reportedly observing some version of sanctuary policy, similar controversy in the Lone Star State is unlikely to wane.
Locales enact sanctuary policy in different ways. Government entities may codify their policies, though others often take a more informal, but nonetheless effective and recognizable approach. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” tactics in which law enforcement refrains from immigration status inquiries are not uncommon. Sanctuary city lists vary as identification of informal policy users are more challenging to track.
A new Center for Immigration Studies report details the use of sanctuary policy throughout the U.S. Though it shows Austin as Texas’ only sanctuary city, others qualify for the list.
The Ohio Jobs & Justice PAC website features a widely-published sanctuary city listing that includes Austin, along with Baytown, Brownsville, Channelview, Denton, Dallas, El Cenizo, Fort Worth, Houston, Katy, Laredo, McAllen and Port Arthur. It also notes San Antonio as “under review” with a disputed status and has McKinney on a “watch list.”
Maria Martinez, executive director of the Immigration Reform Coalition of Texas (IRCOT), adds Harris, El Paso and Dallas Counties to this list, and offers there are likely more.
In the recent Texas legislative session, Senate Bill 185, sponsored by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, sought to outlaw sanctuary cities by prohibiting local governments from restricting law enforcement from making immigration status inquiries of people they stop or arrest.
Though critics characterized the bill as anti-immigration and troublesome for Latinos, Perry defended the measure as not being anti-immigration, but instead simply supportive of the rule-of-law.
Despite passage by a Senate committee, SB 185 later died.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has also weighed in on the sanctuary city issue. In a recent interview with Fox News Channel’s Ed Henry, Abbott said, “Washington D.C. has not done its job in securing the border.”
“We wouldn’t even be talking about sanctuary cities if we had a federal government that was doing its job to secure the border and protect our sovereignty,” he continued. “There are sanctuary cities because the federal government has abandoned its responsibility.”
Abbott’s solution: elect a president who will secure our border and pass immigration reform to get rid of sanctuary city issues.
Sanctuary city critics emphasize the public safety risks posed. Texas is no stranger to crimes committed by criminal illegal aliens.
A Texas Department of Public Safety report purportedly “not meant for public distribution,” but nonetheless leaked to the Houston Chronicle earlier this year echoes these concerns:
A percentage of the illegal aliens (IA) smuggled into Texas are committing crimes throughout the state, including homicide, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, and sex trafficking. Deported criminal aliens too often exploit the porous border and return to Texas to commit additional crimes.
Using Department of Homeland Security statistics, the report states how “between June 1, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2014, more than 96,000 illegal aliens were arrested for criminal offenses and booked into Texas jails. During their criminal careers, these criminal illegal aliens have been charged with more than 247,000 criminal offenses.”
Charges for those arrested include:
- 561 homicide charges
- 27,588 assault charges
- 8,984 burglary charges
- 31,154 drug charges
- 394 kidnapping charges
- 17,133 theft charges
- 23,476 obstructing police charges
- 1,972 robbery charges
- 2,836 sexual assault charges
- 3,770 weapons charges
And ironically, through the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), the Department of Justice annually awards grants that compensate local governments for the cost of jailing illegal aliens.
In a 2010 analysis of SCAAP, the Center for Immigration Studies offered the following analysis:
This is a nonsensical situation. These jurisdictions, some of which are home to the largest concentrations of illegal aliens in their state, have policies in place designed to impede federal immigration law enforcement — and yet year after year they ask the federal government to reimburse them for costs associated with a problem that their own policies make worse.
SCAAP funds are under increased scrutiny. In 2014, funds were cut nearly $60 million or 25 percent from $238 million to $180 million.
With that cut, USA Today noted: “Among the states that would be hit hardest are Arizona, California, Florida, New Jersey, New York and Texas, which have high numbers of undocumented immigrant criminals serving time in state prisons and county jails.”
As local and state taxpayers realize their growing criminal illegal alien incarceration costs, the consequences of sanctuary city policies may become more evident.