Why Orange County needs sanctuary cities
Sanctuary cities offer a refuge to illegal immigrants. Even though the term “sanctuary city” isn’t legally defined, it generally means a city where police stations do less to deport illegal immigrants than the federal government wants. Because counties—not cities—usually run jails, and jails are where illegal immigrants are taken to be deported, county policies affect immigration law more than city policies. The term could technically be changed to “sanctuary counties.”
President Donald Trump released an executive order on Jan. 27 promising to remove federal funding from counties he thinks don’t cooperate enough with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but a judge froze the order in April. The judge made the right choice because trusting police officers promotes feelings of safety, and because illegal immigrants pose no significant threat.
Here is the difference between sanctuary counties and regular counties. Say a police officer arrests someone for a crime unrelated to immigration—maybe drunk driving. The person is taken to the county jail. The jail decides whether or not they send the inmate’s fingerprints to the FBI. If the jail does send them to the FBI, then the FBI sends them to ICE. The Orange County Register quoted Santa Ana Councilman Sal Tinajero in a March 28 article; he defended the city’s decision to not send the fingerprints. “What [the law] says is that if we have a formal request from the federal government to provide information about a detainee, that we have to provide that information – and we do that already. What we don’t do, as a sanctuary city, is voluntarily give you someone’s immigration status that you haven’t asked for,” he said. Santa Ana became a sanctuary city in January after voting in December 2016 to call itself that. According to Tinajero, their current policies comply with federal law.
If and when cities do decide to send fingerprints to ICE, ICE then determines if they belong to an illegal immigrant or not. Finding that the inmate is an illegal immigrant prompts ICE to ask the jail to hold the inmate beyond their original release date. Usually, the additional time is two days. Its purpose is to give ICE more time to come to the jail and deport the inmate. However, the county can choose whether or not they detain the inmate for that additional time because the Department of Homeland Security says a warrant is required to keep someone in jail. If the criminal case is completed, the inmate is sentenced to no additional jail time and the county refuses the request to detain them, the inmate will leave jail. But if the county adheres to ICE’s request—regardless of whether the inmate wasn’t sentenced to additional time—they’ll stay in jail for another two days and have a higher chance of being deported.
Unfortunately, when illegal immigrants fear they will be deported or turned over to ICE by local policemen, they are less likely to trust them. This is a problem because it makes immigrants less likely to ask the police for help in times of danger. Also, illegal immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States, so the argument that they pose a threat to public safety is false.
California is unofficially a sanctuary state, and it has the power to decide its own immigration policy. Hopefully that status will not change if Trump goes further in his efforts to deport illegal immigrants.