How Toxic Sanctuary Laws Are Ruining America’s Suburbs


August 18, 2020

By Dale Wilcox

Much has been written and discussed lately about the flight out of our cities and into the suburbs. News reports show our urban areas rife with protests and riots, and city dwellers are understandably searching for parachutes.

The suburbs, with their quiet bedroom communities, manicured front lawns and lower crime rates, are a much better alternative, right? That depends greatly on which suburb you choose, as many of them are now led by politicians committed to sanctuary policies and all the violence and lawlessness that comes with them.

A glaring example of this can be found in Montgomery County, Md. Straddling Washington, D.C., to the north, it has long been one of the nation’s wealthiest counties. Elites live in tony burgs like Bethesda and Potomac, while places like Rockville and Silver Spring are growing communities. It seemed like an idyllic refuge from city life, where the county’s leaders had struck a winning formula for modern-day living.

Then it all started to go south. For several years now the county leadership has embraced sanctuary policies, welcoming illegal aliens with the promise of jobs, schools, public assistance and protection from federal immigration authorities. County Executive Marc Elrich made it official in July of last year when he signed the “Promoting Community Trust” executive order.

In one of history’s greatest demonstrations of cause-and-effect, the ink on Elrich’s executive order wasn’t even dry before police in the county were busy arresting illegal aliens for a spree of sexual assaults. In the two months after Elrich’s order went into effect, nine illegal aliens in the county were charged.

In one case, a Salvadoran national was arrested in the county on charges of molesting a 12 year-old girl and her younger brother.  In another case, a Honduran national was charged with raping a six-year-old girl repeatedly for a year.

With egg on his face, Elrich walked back his executive order by promising cooperation with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to deport criminal aliens. In non-sanctuary counties, this is standard practice. Local police arrest an illegal alien on a criminal charge and send the fingerprints of the suspect to the FBI, who share the prints with ICE.

If the prints confirm the suspect is here illegally, ICE may request that police detain the suspect until agents can pick him up for deportation proceedings. Before the suspect is released on bond, ICE agents are there to pick him up. It is a system that has made communities safer across the country.

If Montgomery County residents felt secure that Elrich’s backtrack on his sanctuary mandate restored order to the county, however, they were mistaken. My organization, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), recently finished an investigation into the county’s police procedures, and the results were troubling.

While county police are indeed 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.

The obvious conclusion is that the county cynically postured itself as complying with ICE to avoid criticism, yet its actions are defying the purpose of ICE cooperation: to keep potentially dangerous criminal aliens off the streets.

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. In the vast majority of such cases, the victims of crimes committed by illegal aliens are 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 unscrupulous politicians who enable them.        

Why does all of this matter? One of the fundamental job requirements of elected leaders is to safeguard their communities and protect residents from crime. The chicanery IRLI discovered in its investigation shows that Montgomery County’s leaders are more concerned with partisan political agendas than doing everything they can to protect their communities.

They prioritize pandering to Hispanic voters over the safety of all their residents. That is not leadership, but the work of self-serving, radical political activists spewing faux compassion. America’s communities deserve better. 

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 illegal migration.

Also published at: Dale Wilcox, How Toxic Sanctuary Laws Are Ruining America’s Suburbs, The Washington Times, August 18, 2020.

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