As Border Chaos Grows, So Does the Victim Count from Sanctuary City Policies


July 7, 2021

By Dale Wilcox

While the Biden administration’s intentional destruction of our southern border has sucked up all the oxygen on the immigration issue since January, other harmful policies supported by this White House continue to result in violent crimes and destroyed lives that get little or no media attention. The border clearly needs to be the focus, but we should not give this administration a pass for the nightmarish consequences of all their faux compassion.

Exhibit A can be found in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Montgomery County, Md. It was recently reported that Erick Benitez-Amaya, 24, an illegal alien from El Salvador, was arrested in the county in May after allegedly trying to rape a 15-year-old girl.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials confirmed that the agency had issued two previous detainer requests to hold Benitez-Amaya, known as a member of the hyper-violent gang MS-13, at the Montgomery County Detention Center so ICE agents could take custody and begin deportation procedures. On both occasions, the county followed its sanctuary policy and declined to honor the requests. As a result, Benitez-Amaya was eventually released back into the community.  

This has become an all-too-familiar story in the county. Once known for its high quality of life and acclaimed school system, Montgomery County has been in steady decline since its leadership fully embraced sanctuary policies that restrict local law enforcement to fully cooperate with ICE for the removal of criminal aliens.  

The rollout of Montgomery County’s sanctuary policy should go down as one of the greatest examples of cause-and-effect in the history of politics. Shortly after County Executive Marc Elrich proudly announced the “Promoting Community Trust Executive Order” in the summer of 2019, at least nine illegal aliens were arrested for rape and sexual assault.  

Facing a public relations disaster, Elrich declared that portions of the order would be amended, giving ICE access to “identified areas” of county jails to “ensure transfers are conducted in a safe environment.”

If those modifications solved the problem, how does the county explain the case of Benitez-Amaya? Allowing ICE to have greater access to jails is good, but doesn’t address what seems to be the county policy of declining reasonable detainer requests for aliens facing violent crime charges. Those aliens should be in deportation proceedings, not put back onto the streets to commit further acts of mayhem.

Another tactic the county has used to look tough on illegal alien crime while actually doing the opposite involves notification times for ICE. While county police may be notifying ICE before aliens charged with crimes are released, they are giving such short notification that it is nearly impossible for ICE agents to be present when the suspect is released.

In the most flagrant example, county police gave ICE a paltry 28 minutes to apprehend an alien charged with second-degree rape and sexual abuse before local police released him back into the community. 

Montgomery County is by no means an exceptional case. Sadly, it has become the norm. Thanks to anti-borders politicians in cities, counties and states, there are now more than 190 jurisdictions that have sanctuary policies. Between January 2014 and September 2015, sanctuary jurisdictions across the country declined 18,646 ICE detainer requests. California alone declined 11,171 requests.

The most common defense of this practice offered by sanctuary leaders is that they are trying to create a welcoming community, and that such policies protect illegal aliens from persecution from ICE. Even on this count the practice is a failure. Because criminal aliens often live among other foreign nationals, the victims of crimes committed by illegal aliens are often other illegal aliens or legal immigrants.

When ICE is prevented from acquiring criminal aliens in the security of a jail facility, they are forced to apprehend them in a home or workplace. This presents far more danger to ICE agents, to the alien in question and other innocent people in the vicinity. Given those facts, sanctuary policies create more danger to illegal immigrants, not less. The only beneficiaries of such policies are dangerous criminal aliens and the self-serving politicians who enable them.       

The problem has been become worse this year, as the Biden administration and the Democrat-controlled Congress have worked to defund ICE and change its mission, essentially neutralizing the one agency tasked with keeping criminal aliens out of our communities.

With the influx of illegal aliens surging at the border, these new arrivals will likely be drawn to sanctuary communities where they know the chances of being deported are slim to none. Add to that the already rising crime rates in most large cities, and it’s hard to see where these policies lead other than to the breakdown of American society. It’s time for good people to stand up and oppose this madness.

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.

Also published at: Dale Wilcox, As Border Chaos Grows, So Does the Victim Count from Sanctuary Policies, The Washington Times, July 7, 2021.

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