According to the Wall Street Journal, the last serious attempt to count the number of federal criminal laws appears to have been made in 1982 by a retired Justice Department official named Ronald Gainer. He failed, but the estimate then was “…50 titles and 23,000 pages of federal law.” Many more laws have been added since then.

One thing is certain: If you violate federal law you are likely to be punished with a fine, imprisonment or both. These laws are supposed to apply to everyone, unless, it seems, you are an illegal alien living in San Francisco, or any of the other sanctuary cities around the country.

 

By now, anyone not preoccupied with stories about shark attacks, the Confederate flag or singer Ariana Grande “maliciously licking” donuts she did not buy, has heard about 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle gunned down by an illegal alien while walking on a San Francisco pier with her father. Her accused killer is Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a felon from Mexico, who had been deported five times but always managed to sneak back in, choosing San Francisco, he reportedly said, because he knew it was a “sanctuary city” that would not deport him.

The concept of a sanctuary city comes from the Old Testament.

“…if someone deliberately kills another person, then the slayer must be dragged even from my altar and be put to death. (Exodus 21:14). But if it was simply an accident permitted by God, I will appoint a place of refuge where the slayer can run for safety. (Exodus 21:13). These cities will be places of protection from a dead person’s relatives who want to avenge the death. The slayer must not be put to death before being tried by the community. (Numbers 35:19) “Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the blood avenger. ... The congregation shall deliver the manslayer from the hand of the blood avenger, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he fled; and he shall live in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil…” (Numbers 35:24-28).

This ancient concept for a sanctuary city was not to shield a suspect from justice, but to guarantee justice was done. The suspected murderer would be given safe haven only until a trial was held. If he was found guilty, he was executed. If he was acquitted he was set free. But if he left the sanctuary city before the trial, “the avenger of blood” could kill him.

Officials in “sanctuary cities” pervert the concept of sanctuary by helping suspects evade the law. Congress should deny federal funds to these cities as long as they continue to ignore the law. President Obama is unlikely to speak, much less lead on this issue, because the Democratic Party thinks it can win the Hispanic vote in 2016. Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce want cheap immigrant labor, so they will huff and puff but do nothing, hoping the controversy goes away. The public must not let this happen.

According to the Washington Post, there are an estimated 60 sanctuary cities around the country, including major cities like New York, Los Angeles and Houston, and these cities are unlikely to change their sanctuary policies anytime soon.

In fact, writes International Business Times, “…a number of local leaders in U.S. cities have renewed their efforts to foster welcoming and inclusive communities for illegal aliens. So-called ‘sanctuary policies’ … are intended to signal to the undocumented community that it’s safe to come out of the shadows without the fear of being reported to federal authorities.”

If laws are not enforced, what is the point of having them?

If politicians are so afraid of losing the Hispanic vote that they do nothing in response to the murder of Kathryn Steinle, they should be removed from office. The notion that Hispanics won’t vote for a party that stands for justice is racist.

Cal Thomas is America's most widely syndicated op-ed columnist. He joined Fox News Channel in 1997 as a political contributor. His latest book is "What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America" is available in bookstores now. Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribune.com.