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OpEd: Sanctuary Laws Make All Californians Less Safe

The recent high profile death of a homeless man in Oceanside highlighted once again the dangers of an open border.  29-year-old Esteysi “Stacy” Sanchez, who was in the country illegally, was driving while severely intoxicated and slammed her car into 69-year-old Jack Tenhulzen, whose body remained lodged inside her car as she drove an entire mile, seemingly in an attempt to covertly park near her home.

That horrible incident comes on the heels of the year anniversary of the death of Kate Steinle, murdered while walking arm-in-arm with her father in broad daylight on a San Francisco pier by Juan Lopez-Sanchez, an illegal Mexican national who had been convicted of seven felonies and deported five times.  Lopez-Sanchez later revealed that he had repeatedly returned to San Francisco after being deported because he knew the city had sanctuary laws protecting illegal aliens.

California has become a mecca for illegal immigrants and one of the driving reasons are the sanctuary policies adopted by many of the state’s major cities.  But California took the dangerous sanctuary movement a step further in 2013 when it officially became a sanctuary state, effectively turning a blind eye to the estimated 2.6 million illegal alien residents already here.  And as we’ve seen, some of these illegal alien residents have demonstrated just how deadly they can be.

Sanctuary laws are policies, ordinances, resolutions, executive actions, or any initiatives that prohibit local officials from inquiring, acting on, or reporting an individual’s immigration status — even when there is reasonable suspicion that an individual is in the country illegally.  These laws allow American cities and neighborhoods to serve as safe havens for some of the very people who need to be identified, and jailed or deported.

Under California’s outrageous sanctuary laws, state and local law enforcement officers have the option of releasing illegal aliens back onto the streets even if they have been convicted of a serious violent felony, even when the felony is punishable by imprisonment.  California carries the sad distinction of being the state with the most incidents of refusing to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers, refusing to cooperate with federal officials some 11,000 times.  Roughly 8,000 of those aliens released back into the streets had prior criminal histories.

The very presence of sanctuary laws actually serves as a magnet for future illegal immigration, since once an illegal alien slips  past the Border Patrol or overstays their tourist visa, they’re home free so long as they remain in California.  These dangerous sanctuary laws have mushroomed under the Obama administration, which has systematically dismantled nearly every facet of immigration enforcement over the last eight years.

But it’s not just about turning a blind eye to illegal alien criminals.  Sanctuary laws can also provide cover for would-be terrorists who are operating in the U.S.  We learned this lesson the hard way in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks when it was discovered that several of the terrorists had been stopped for violations by local law enforcement and were in the country illegally. Had they been detained and deported, the attack may have been thwarted altogether.

Sanctuary policies are also a workplace issue, since they serve as a safe zone for illegal alien workers, placing American citizens and legal residents at a distinct disadvantage. Ironically, it’s the most disadvantaged groups in our state – the ones who are barely making ends meet in the first place – who are competing against these unwanted guests for entry-level jobs.

Anyone who thinks that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can adequately perform their jobs without the eyes and ears of local law enforcement on the ground and in the communities where these aliens live is delusional.  ICE’s mission is to identify and remove criminal aliens – and there are tens of thousands of them in the U.S. today.  These aliens have committed murder, rape, drunk driving, and child abuse, and should be sent home.  When state and local law enforcement embrace ICE’s charge, we’re all better off.

There’s no question that terrorists have pledged to strike our nation again and are looking for our Achilles heel to exploit and use to their advantage.  We also know that criminal aliens are walking the streets of America, looking for their next victim.  It’s time to put California’s citizens and legal residents first, and revisit our dangerous sanctuary policies.

About the author: Jeff Schwilk is president of San Diegans for Secure Borders Coalition and lives in Oceanside, California.