Sanctuary City Policies Can Put Us All At Risk  

Laws are a necessary evil in civilized society. You obey the laws and the government will do its best to protect you and yours. But what happens when there’s a conflict between a state and a federal law?

That is the situation across America today. So far six states: California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont, along with multiple dozens of cities and counties – are on record as being safe spaces — places of sanctuary — for those who have entered the country illegally. They are all ignoring federal immigration laws.

Those in favor of the Sanctuary City idea seem to embrace old adage of “two wrongs make a right.” They have been upset with the country’s immigration policies for years now. They feel the Trump administration’s recent declaration that sanctuary cities are “violating the law” is wrongheaded and, therefore, justifies their own disregard of existing immigration law. They believe America should open its arms to immigrants, not slam the door in their faces.

It is time to acknowledge, however, that not all illegal immigrants are created equal. Yes, there are those who came here desperately seeking a better, safer future for their family and have lived exemplary lives. And then there are others who entered the U.S. illegally and committed heinous crimes against American citizens. Let’s focus on this latter group.

Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents (ICE) want to keep track of those who’ve been arrested on local criminal charges. They frequently issue what’s called an “immigration detainer,” a formal request to be alerted when a “criminal alien” (as the White House calls them) is about to be released from custody. Then they can move in and decide about possible deportation. But officials in sanctuary cities are ignoring the detainer requests and allowing these non-citizen convicts to simply walk out the jailhouse door.

Look, its obvious we need major immigration reform and I support several ideas for change, like adoption of the Dream Act allowing the undocumented who were brought here as children a path to citizenship. But, it is not time to change the idea behind getting rid of the criminal element that enters our country illegally. Those locations that ignore federal detainer orders do so at their peril. And they put all of us in harm’s way.

He Shot and Killed Her But Was Not Convicted – He Had Been Deported FIVE Times

By now, you’ve likely heard about Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, deported from the U.S. five times. He illegally re-entered again and shot and killed a woman in San Francisco (a Sanctuary City) back in 2015. He declared it was an accidental shooting and was recently found not guilty of that murder. Federal authorities have now stepped in and charged Garcia Zarate with both immigration and gun violations. Too little too late for the family of Kate Steinle, 32, who was simply out for a stroll with her father when she was gunned down.

And I have written in this space* about the situation in Connecticut, a state where a growing number of localities are currently considering laws to protect undocumented immigrants or have already passed such laws. Perhaps they forget that back in 2015 Haitian Jean Jacques was released from a Connecticut prison after he’d served a 17-year sentence on attempted murder charges. He was not deported as convicts are supposed to be and six months later he murdered 24-year-old Casey Chadwick.

These are only two examples of immigrants who have committed felony crimes while on U.S. soil. Space does not permit the entire long list. So, remind me again how sanctuary cities are helping Americans stay safe?

I understand those in favor of defying federal immigration actions do so with altruistic motives. They offer heartfelt pleas on behalf of those who have been living peacefully in the U.S. for years and the families that might be torn apart by application of the law. They remind us that America was built on the backs of hard working immigrants who came from every corner of the globe.

Let’s also remember that those who helped build America came here through an orderly and legal process. And it has been this country’s long-standing policy to deport those immigrants who are convicted of serious crimes like rape, murder, aggravated assault and drug or sex trafficking. President Obama supported this idea as well.

Truth be told we have ignored our immigration policy problems for so long that we’ve backed ourselves into a legal corner. By some counts there are now more than 600 jurisdictions across the country that have approved some sort of sanctuary policy yet that term has no technical or legal definition and isn’t mentioned in any section of the U.S. Code.

Its long past time for politicians to re-vamp and update our immigration policies but I’m not holding my breath. At the very least, every jurisdiction needs to recognize those immigration detainer requests as necessary to keep Americans safe. It’s time to put every one of those who have proven to be unworthy to live here on a plane back to their home country.




  1. Diane Dimond on December 11, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    ABQ Journal Reader Kevin McGuinness writes:

    Dear Ms. Diamond,

    I have read your column for several years and, up to now, appreciated your independent thinking and your ability to articulate your thoughts cogently.

    Your latest piece, the Dec 9th article against Sanctuary Cities, disappointed me. I do not ascribe to your dismissal of my support for Sanctuary Places as supporting “Two wrongs make a right.” It’s difficult to express myself in this format — but let me make a few points:

    1. This country has failed to control illegal immigration until recently, when more resources were dedicated to protecting the border. Illegal immigration has fallen drastically — without the “wall.”

    What to do about the large group of people who arrived here when everyone “looked the other way?” I don’t believe throwing them all out is the fair thing to do. I do not support draconian measures to remove them.

    2. There has not been, nor is there currently, a consistent drumbeat of support for penalizing employers who hire illegal immigrants. Why not? I can’t imagine the economies of New York City and New Jersey running well without this addition to the workforce. From what I read of dairy farms, poultry growers and processors, hog and cattle processing etc, these operations depend on these workers too.

    So — we have done little up to now to discourage immigrants from coming here any way they could; in fact we have given them economic incentives and continue to not penalize employers who utilize their labor; and we have immigrant family groups who have established themselves in our communities and contribute with their taxes paid, their purchase of housing and essential goods.

    I am not in favor of kicking these people out — especially since the drumbeat to do so is is fiercely pounded by the racist, white supremacist, nationalist constituency of our latest aberration of Chief Executive. Kicking these people out is committing a greater wrong, in my humble opinion. Giving any support to the current administration is morally wrong.

    Yes, I share your sense of loss and rage that 2 individuals who committed crimes were not deported after their release from incarceration. (I would be curious to see “These are only two examples of immigrants who have committed felony crimes while on U.S. soil. Space does not permit the entire long list.”) I am always suspicious when someone hold up a few anectodal instances to support their viewpoint: like the gun crazy crowd insisting on more guns means less criminal assaults because someone somewhere supposedly fought off an intruder…

    I suppose Sanctuary Citizens would be more supportive of an effort to detain and deport the worst of the worst if, in fact, that was all this morally bankrupt administration wanted to do. But we see them and we hear them: all their actions are suspect.

    Respectfully yours,

    Kevin McGuinness

    • Diane Dimond on December 11, 2017 at 1:30 pm

      Mr. McGuinness:

      First, I am also not in fa vor of any draconian measures to remove all the illegal immigrants now residing in the United States. I don’t favor kicking them all out, as you put it. I also don’t think those brought here illegally as children should be penalized when living in America is all they know.

      There is already a system in place whereby employers are required to act almost as civilian government agents in vetting each person they hire. I have written about that requirement in the past. If you are interested look here for details:

      And if you doubt the number of illegal immigrants who have committed serious violent crimes while on US soil you can check me at this link:

      Sorry if this column disappointed you but my point was – when a person who entered this country illegally is arrested, convicted, served time and is then released out onto American streets again the feds should be notified to see if they can be deported. If you don’t agree we will have to leave it at that.

      Thanks for reading my column each week! ~ DD

  2. Diane Dimond on December 11, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    Noozhawk Reader Jamesgd writes:

    “They are all ignoring federal immigration laws.” that is not true. states just arent allowed to enforce immigration law. police departments in many states have had to pay settlements for enforcing immigration laws in violation of civil rights. they cant. ice needs to do a better job. its not the states problem.
    “defying federal immigration action…” this is a lie. federal government can act in whatever way it wants to enforce immigration law in any state. but it cannot commandeer state governments to enforce it for them, and states put themselves at risk doing so voluntarily. plenty of case law showing this. many lost cases. point the finger at ice if you want changes. its their responsibility to get it done.

    • Diane Dimond on December 11, 2017 at 1:07 pm

      DD replies:

      States that ignore criminal illegal immigrants put all of us at risk. States that let criminal illegal immigrants roam free when they should be deported put us all at risk. They ignore federal law by refusing to alert ICE when a convicted illegal immigrant is being released from custody — PUTTING US ALL AT RISK. If states followed the fed’s request for notification there would be countless fewer dead Americans. These are facts.

  3. Diane Dimond on December 11, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    Noozhawk Reader GordoSB writes:

    Let’s not forget Marilyn Pharis of Santa Maria. This military veteran was brutally tortured, raped, and murdered by two men, one being an illegal alien who had been recently released from custody by the Santa Maria police who ignored a Federal detainer on him.
    The Santa Maria City Council and the Chief of Police at the time of the murder MUST be tried as accessories to this murder. Had they followed Federal Law Ms Pharis may still be alive.

  4. Diane Dimond on December 11, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    ABQ Journal Reader Brian Harris writes:

    Your column about Sanctuary cities and illegal immigration was beyond disingenuous. I read the version that appeared in the Albuquerque Journal December 9th 2017.

    You trot out two examples of felon immigrants, neither of which had anything to do with Sanctuary policies.

    Many law enforcement organizations have stated that Sanctuary policies help with their policing efforts in the community. It maintains a system of trust so that illegal immigrants feel safe and secure contacting local law enforcement about crimes in their area. Did you really need to be reminded of this?

    Your appeal to emotion does more harm than good. Half-truths and inciting fear of “the other” are not a good basis for policy or legal reform concerning illegal immigration. I wish you would look at the issue with the nuance it deserves.

    Better yet why not spend a week volunteering with the organizations working with detained mothers and children in Dilley Texas or Carnes Pennsylvania? You would learn an amazing amount about the reality on the ground.

    Brian Harris

    • Diane Dimond on December 11, 2017 at 1:18 pm

      Mr. Harris:

      The point of my column — which I originally entitled, “Sanctuary City Policies Can Put Us All At Risk,” and the ABQ Journal entitled something like “Not all Immigrants Deserve Sanctuary” — was that by ignoring the feds request to be notified when a CONVICTED immigrant is released from custody Sanctuary Cities could be putting us all in danger. If the person was violent going into prison/jail they will most likely remain violent coming out.
      No doubt some police departments believe the public is better served if the immigrant community feels safe speaking to the police….but that was not what this column was about. No doubt immigrants have contributed in mighty ways to the United States – but I didn’t mention that either as that was not my focus.
      The immigration issue has many layers to it – too many for each to be addressed in a brief column like mine. Call it “half-truths” if you want … I call it focusing on one layer. ~DD

Leave a Comment