Data Suggest ‘Sanctuary’ Policies Impeding ICE Arrests

Brendan Kirby
May 22, 2017
Polizette

Illegal-alien apprehensions surge in areas with strong local cooperation, decline in San Francisco

Immigration arrests jumped more than a third during President Donald Trump’s first 100 days compared with the same period last year, but statistics requested by LifeZette show wide geographic variation.

Overall, Immigration and Customs Enforcement data reported by the government last week showed that arrests of illegal immigrants totaled 41,898 from Jan. 20 through April 29. That was a 34.6 percent increase over the same period in 2016.

Some ICE offices were far busier than others, however.

Arrests more than doubled in the Miami field office and nearly doubled in the Dallas office. On the other side of the spectrum, the San Francisco office was the only ICE office where immigration arrests actually declined from 2016 to 2017,  falling 1.5 percent.

In the Los Angeles office, arrests plummeted from 6,209 to 2,719 in the Jan. 20-April 29 period between 2014 and 2015, and then dropped another 20 percent the following year. Yet despite new marching orders from the Trump administration, arrests by Los Angeles-based ICE officers have barely recovered, inching up just five percent since last year.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, said it is hard to make definitive statements about the data since ICE offices cover large geographic areas and not just the cities where they are located. She also noted that some ICE offices have fewer agents because the previous administration shifted them to the border to help process the influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America.

But Vaughan said it appears that “sanctuary” policies are affecting the performance of federal immigration authorities. She said the 35 percent increase in ICE arrests would have been even greater if local officials uniformly were cooperating.

“I don’t think there’s any question about that,” she said.

San Francisco vs. Miami-Dade

San Francisco and its surrounding cities and counties have some of the most sweeping policies of non-cooperation in the country.

Vaughan said that when jails release illegal immigrants and ignore ICE requests to hold people targeted for deportation, it makes it harder for federal agents to apprehend illegal immigrants who have committed crimes. San Francisco is a classic example, she said.

“That would explain the drop there,” she said. “Most of these numbers, even in 2017, are criminal aliens.”

Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez announced in January that he was reversing that jurisdiction’s sanctuary policy in the wake of Trump’s executive order directing the Justice Department to cut off funds for recalcitrant cities and counties. A federal judge later blocked parts of that order but allowed the Justice Department to continue its process of cutting off funds for certain grants where Congress specifically has conditioned eligibility on cooperation with immigration authorities.

Vaughan said she does not think it is a coincidence that the Miami office had the biggest increase in arrests in the country, climbing from 958 in 2016 to 1,999 during the same period of 2017. In Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott has pushed local authorities to be more cooperative with the federal government, the Dallas office experienced a 92 percent increase in ICE arrests.

Steve Salvi, who since 2006 has been maintaining a sanctuary jurisdiction list that now exceeds 500, said he is not sure how much those policies hinder ICE.

“Your guess is probably as good as mine,” said Salvi, founder of the Ohio Jobs and Justice political action committee. “Good question.”

Salvi said it stands to reason that ICE officers cannot effectively apprehend illegal immigrants by themselves.

“You probably do need the cooperation of the people who are really on the ground,” he said. “If local police don’t cooperate, they’re going to make a hard time finding them … They’re putting their own people at risk, and everyone else, as well.”

Keeping a Lower Profile?

Joseph Guzzardi, a spokesman for Californians for Population Stabilization, said one factor for the decline could be that illegal border crossings have nose-dived under Trump. With fewer people coming, it stands to reason that ICE arrests would decline, he said.

Last week, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that fears over Trump’s deportation rhetoric had prompted 150 city households with at least one illegal immigrant to withdraw from the food stamp program in March and April. Perhaps, Guzzardi suggested, arrests are down because illegal immigrations are keeping a lower profile.

“Possibly, they’re being less bold in their criminal activity,” he said.


Law and Order: ICE Under Trump Making 400 Arrests a DayApprehension of illegal immigrants runs 38 percent ahead of Obama's last year in office

But Vaughan said the focus remains on criminals. She said the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department releases about 50 illegal immigrants a day.

"Even without the sanctuary policies, ICE couldn't keep up with it," she said. "But sanctuary policies make it worse."

Southern California traditionally had worked more closely with ICE than northern California jurisdictions. But Vaughan noted that the California Trust Act, passed in 2013, prohibits local law enforcement cooperation with ICE. The 63.4 percent drop in immigration arrests from the Los Angeles ICE office since 2014

"It really hit Los Angeles hard," she said. "And that is one of the busiest offices."

Guzzardi said much of the opposition to immigration enforcement in California comes from resistance to Trump. He predicted a backlash.

"There are a lot of people, even Democrats, who think they're going overboard with this Trump stuff," he said.

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