SAN DIEGO – While Donald Trump wants to talk about “sanctuary cities,” you can bet that almost every other GOP presidential candidate wants sanctuary from Donald Trump.
The mouthy mogul’s screed about Mexican immigrants has sparked a debate over cities that give safe harbor to undocumented people.
Supposedly, San Francisco is one such place. The circumstances surrounding the recent murder in that city of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle – allegedly by career criminal and illegal immigrant Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez – were already cloudy. So were the sanctuary policies of both the city and county of San Francisco, which may have allowed Lopez-Sanchez to remain in the country – despite the fact that he had been deported five times. But when all that is overlaid with a thick and syrupy layer of politics, the picture only gets murkier.
Sanctuary cities ain’t what they used to be. It was back in 1989 that the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors voted to bar local officials, including police, from helping federal authorities with immigration investigations or arrests unless such help is required by law or a warrant is issued by a judge. The original idea was that if an undocumented person was arrested on a non-immigration offense, and federal immigration agents tried to have that person released to their custody, local authorities could use their discretion to decide whether to honor the request.
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But, in the last 26 years, San Francisco’s sanctuary policy has been repeatedly modified and become less lenient. These days, local law enforcement will hand over to federal immigration agents undocumented immigrants who haven’t even gone before a judge. Also, in the last six and a half years, the Obama administration has been quite aggressive in roping local police and sheriff’s departments into the enforcement of federal immigration law, using tools like Secure Communities. Under that now-discontinued program, local police would run the fingerprints of suspected illegal immigrants through a federal database to determine their status.
Now the administration is pushing something called the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), which asks local law enforcement to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement when it plans to release what local authorities suspect is an illegal immigrant – something that officials in San Francisco failed to do.
So it’s simply not true that the Obama administration is going light on immigration enforcement or that sanctuary cities really provide all that much protection.
Those are lies told by Republicans. Not to be confused with the lies told by Democrats.
When he was asked about the Steinle murder and whether federal immigration agents could have prevented it, White House press secretary Josh Earnest took a trip to Fantasyland.
First, Earnest tried to give the administration credit for a supposed change in policy where it deports “felons, not … families.” But immigration attorneys tell me the change was cosmetic, and that the administration still deports families – especially heads of households. Besides, the White House has already muddied the waters about who is or isn’t a “criminal.” Administration officials misled the public by claiming that they were deporting mostly criminals when it later turned out they were removing housekeepers and gardeners who had re-entered after being deported, which is a felony. It confused everyone, which was probably the objective.
Next, Earnest tried to blame Republicans for “blocking” immigration reform by not taking up the Senate immigration bill. Yet he didn’t explain how the legislation would have prevented the killing in San Francisco. It wouldn’t have. The bigger problem is that President Obama poisoned the immigration debate by breaking his 2008 campaign promise to make reform a top priority and deporting 2 million people – and then tried to blame it all on Republicans.
Finally, Earnest blasted Republicans for not letting the Obama administration spend more on border security. Seriously? Obama spends plenty, including a $600 million bill he signed in August 2010 that included funding for more Border Patrol agents and additional fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. The administration’s 2016 budget request for the Department of Homeland Security is a whopping $41.2 billion, about half of which will go to immigration and border enforcement. Throwing money at the border won’t solve this problem, but Obama has thrown plenty of it.
This is what happens when the worlds of politicians and criminals collide.
One group is a bunch of scoundrels who run wild and wreak havoc. Inherently dishonest and out to serve their own interests, they opportunistically take advantage of bad situations and cause a lot of suffering while refusing to take responsibility for their actions.
Then you have the criminals.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.