Sanctuary California should be a cautionary tale, not a goal
From the moment Joe Biden assumed the presidency, immigration has been at the top of his agenda. One of his first acts was to sign a series of executive orders that reversed the Trump administration's policies on things like border wall funding, travel bans, and sanctuary laws.
While Trump's goal for immigration policy was clearly articulated in his "Make America Great Again" concept, we have heard little on where Biden intends to take us with his immigration plank. Judging from his actions so far, though, the destination is clear. He wants to make America into California, and that should deeply concern every U.S. citizen.
What anti-borders politicians have done to California over the last 30 years is a disgrace. The home of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, once a beacon of opportunity and prosperity, is today a sinking ship. Immigration policy is a significant factor in that decline.
Taking on a massive population of illegal aliens has come at a colossal cost to Californians, in terms of finances, safety, and job opportunities, to name a few. State residents foot the bill for more than $23 billion that is directly attributable to illegal immigration and its effects. That breaks down to almost $2,000 for every legally present household each year. This from a state that is already carrying more than $1.3 trillion in total state, county, and municipal debt. Who wouldn't want to pay a hefty tax each year to encourage more illegal aliens to move to your community?
The chief catalyst for California's illegal alien crisis has been its embrace of sanctuary laws. By preventing local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities in the deportation of criminal aliens, there are virtually no consequences for violating our nation's immigration laws inside the state of California.
While the Orwellian-named California Values Act (S.B. 54) made sanctuary policy state law, it seems downright moderate compared to what some cities and counties have done. S.B. 54 at least allows cooperation with ICE in only the most extreme of circumstances.
The sanctuary law in Santa Clara, the largest county in northern California, takes an even more radical position, stating that the county "does not, under any circumstances, honor civil detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by holding inmates on ICE's behalf for additional time after they would otherwise be released from County custody."
Before sanctuary laws, it had long been a practice of local law enforcement to cooperate with detainer requests as a way to expedite criminal aliens toward deportation.
The results of this policy have been about as bad as you might expect. In Santa Clara County last November, police arrested Fernando De Jesus Lopez-Garcia after he allegedly stabbed five people inside the Grace Baptist Church, killing two and leaving three others seriously injured.
One witness called 911 to say a "man was going crazy, stabbing people and there was blood everywhere." He was arrested on two counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, battery on a spouse, and violation of a protective order.
Lopez-Garcia is an illegal alien with an extensive criminal record who had successfully avoided ICE apprehension after each arrest because of local and state sanctuary laws barring cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
In 2019, police arrested Carlos Eduardo Arevalo Carranza, an illegal alien from El Salvador, for allegedly beating and stabbing Bambi Larson to death in her San Jose home. Reports later disclosed that police had previously arrested Carranza ten times for drugs, kidnapping, battery against a police officer, and burglary. ICE had requested an immigration hold on Carranza seven times, but the Santa Clara Sheriff's Office (SCSO) refused every request. Facing criticism for the sanctuary policy, the county supervisors met and inexplicably voted 5-0 to double down on the policy.
My organization, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), recently concluded an investigation into these practices in Santa Clara and found some disturbing results.
We submitted a records request with the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office to discover just how many ICE detainers it has received in recent time and how many of them applied to aliens with serious criminal backgrounds. That request revealed that ICE lodged a total of 1,757 detainers in just two years — 909 requests in 2019 and 848 in 2020. The law enforcement records technician with the sheriff's office confirmed with IRLI that every single one of these requests was ignored.
The Sheriff's Office refused to disclose to IRLI how many of the detainer requests applied to aliens who were convicted or charged with serious or violent felony offenses. When IRLI asked about the last year an ICE detainer request was honored by the county, a records technician there replied that he could not find records that showed the last time a detainer request was honored.
The results of these laws are clear. The county has become a haven for illegal aliens, particularly those with criminal records. The communities are demonstrably less safe, and the influx of new arrivals creates a heavy financial burden on legal state residents. Is it any wonder that taxpayers are fleeing the state in droves?
As the Biden administration goes full speed with its anti-borders agenda, however, there will be no place for concerned Americans to flee. California-style laws will soon become federal laws. We're about to conduct a national experiment in anti-borders cause and effect. Buckle up.
Dale L. Wilcox is executive director and general counsel at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.