Two years ago this week, a young woman named Kate Steinle was murdered in cold blood—shot in the back as she walked with her father on a tourist pier in San Francisco.
The man charged with her murder, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, was a seven-time felon and an illegal alien who had been deported five times. And yet he walked the streets of an American city freely.
Lopez-Sanchez should never have been on that pier with Kate. He should have been in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). And he would have been if San Francisco had only notified ICE of his release from the city’s custody, as ICE had requested.
But San Francisco refused to do so. The city continues to refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. In fact, it’s city policy.
That’s because San Francisco is one of about 300 cities which openly refuse to turn over criminal illegal aliens to federal law enforcement.
These cities protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes, rather than their law-abiding residents. These jurisdictions refuse to provide ICE with information about removable illegal aliens who are in their custody and have committed a crime or are suspected of having committed a crime.
It’s hard to believe, but some even refuse to hold known MS-13 gang members so that ICE can take them into custody. This gang terrorizes communities from Los Angeles to Long Island, killing, robbing, and pushing dangerous drugs on our streets. Members of this gang have murdered and gang-raped innocent children as part of their initiation into the group. Some 10,000 of these gang members are estimated to be in 40 states today and they tend to be concentrated in places that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. It’s easy to see why.
Consider the case of Ever Valles, an illegal alien who was charged with robbing and murdering 32-year-old Tim Cruz at a Denver light rail station. ICE notified Denver authorities that it wanted to take custody of Valles, who had previously been charged with car theft and weapon possession and was a known gang member. But Denver authorities released him anyway. Cruz would not have died at the hands of Ever Valles had Valles been in ICE custody that day.
Cities like Denver also continue to shelter illegal aliens that are charged with driving under the influence or hit-and-run, despite the countless instances of illegal aliens, like Norlan Estrada-Reyes, driving carelessly and killing innocent Americans. In October, Estrada-Reyes hit and killed a young lawyer, Karina Pulec, and then fled from the scene. Estrada-Reyes had previously been arrested, but ICE was never notified.
The practices of these jurisdictions are not only contrary to sound policy; they’re contrary to the law enforcement cooperation that is carried out every day in our country and is essential to public safety. Federal law enforcement is not asking too much of these cities and states. We are simply asking them to do what most cities and states do, and something supported by the vast majority of the American people.
Congress can do its part to help end these policies by passing the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act and Kate’s Law, two bills that would make all Americans safer.
The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act would withhold certain federal grant money from jurisdictions that prohibit their officers from cooperating with ICE. Under this bill, American taxpayers will no longer be forced to subsidize jurisdictions whose policies effectively work to make us less safe.
The bill also contains a provision—known as Sarah and Grant’s law—which would ensure that illegal aliens are detained pending their removal proceedings. This provision was named after Sarah Root, a recent college graduate, who was killed by an illegal alien charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, and Grant Ronnebeck, who was killed by an illegal alien – a self-proclaimed member of the Sinaloa cartel – who had been released on bail pending his removal proceeding.
Congress can also make it harder for criminal aliens to repeatedly reenter the United States. Kate’s Law would do that by increasing the penalties for deported aliens who return to the United States. We must send a clear message that re-entering after having been previously deported will cease to be a minor matter, but will result in prison and deportation.
These policies make all of us less safe by giving shelter to dangerous criminals. Congress can take a major step for public safety by passing these two critical pieces of legislation.
Jeff Sessions is the Attorney General of the United States.