Here’s the truth about sanctuary cities

By Thomas Homan

When I was the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, I often talked about sanctuary cities and how politicians who push them were dishonest with their communities. I often talked about how these jurisdictions are un-American, undermine public safety, put the public in harm’s way and make life harder and more dangerous for law enforcement.

Let’s dissect the false narrative pushed by advocates for sanctuary policies.

We often hear that sanctuary policies enable victims and witnesses to report crime and communicate with police without the worry of being turned over to ICE and being deported. Other politicians say that sanctuary policies help to protect the immigrant community and those most vulnerable.


Another false narrative is that local police should not have to do federal immigration officers’ job by enforcing federal immigration laws.

Let’s examine the false claim about protecting victims and witnesses. First of all, this doesn’t make sense. ICE is not interested in identifying any victim or witnesses to crime. A sanctuary policy prevents ICE from accessing jails, and it prevents ICE from being notified when an illegal alien is released from a jail.

I am grateful that we have a president who understands the danger sanctuary cities pose. I am also grateful that we have a Department of Justice that is litigating against these dangerous policies.

Unless the police arrest and book a victim or a witness, ICE would never know of their existence. If victims and witnesses are afraid to report a crime, it is because of the false stories pushed out to the public by pro-immigrant groups, NGOs and politicians who want to vilify and mischaracterize ICE.

If, by chance, a victim of a crime talks to ICE, they could actually become eligible to obtain legal authorization to remain in the U.S. as a victim. That is a fact you never hear anti-ICE groups acknowledge.

ICE’s ability to access jail to speak with an illegal immigrant in the country in violation of federal law and who has been locked up for a crime, presents no danger at all to a victim or witness. The fact is that if you look up recidivism rates, 50 percent of those criminals will re-offend within the first year and as many as 75 percent will re-offend within five years.

Why would the local criminal justice system refuse to let the federal ICE officers enforce their law and prevent further people to become victims?

Another false narrative is that these sanctuary laws protect the immigrant community. Sanctuary policies accomplish the exact opposite. Data clearly shows that when an illegal immigrant is released from jail, they will most likely re-offend in the same community where they live — the immigrant community.

A clear example is that MS-13 gang members almost always conduct their criminal activity within the immigrant community. How does releasing a child predator, a convicted drunk driver, a convicted robber or someone convicted of assault back into the community help those who are part of it?

The fact is that releasing criminals back into those communities puts victims at greater risk. It doesn’t protect communities. It only protects the criminal illegal immigrant.

It also forces ICE agents to go into communities to seek out criminals. Instead of arresting the bad guy in the safety and security of a jail, they must go into a community or someone’s place of business to arrest the criminal. That is much more dangerous for the local law enforcement officers who will most likely have to deal with them again.

When ICE is forced into a community to arrest a criminal, chances are they will find others who are illegally in the country. People who were not even on the radar have been found during operations to seek out at-large criminals.

We call these “collateral arrests.” Where do most collateral arrests happen? Sanctuary jurisdictions, because we are forced into neighborhoods rather than operating within jails. So not only is the community at greater risk of repeat crimes by the offender, they are at increased risk of ICE arrest.

So how do sanctuary policies protect immigrant communities? All any politician has to do is ask the immigrant community if they would rather see ICE operate in a jail or in their community. What do you think they would say?

ICE is not asking local law enforcement to act as immigration officers. We are simply asking that they give us access to taxpayer-funded jails to talk to those who we have probable cause to believe are in the country illegally. We ask them to honor our detainers, which have been found to be constitutional by the Fifth District Court of the United States.

If they are afraid of lawsuits from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union for holding someone longer than they should have, they can simply call ICE before releasing them. They don’t have to hold an alien one minute longer than they want to hold them. The local jurisdiction has already made the decision to lock them up because they are either a public danger or a flight risk. Now, simply let a federal law enforcement officer enforce federal law. Let us do our job.

Law enforcement should always work with other law enforcement to keep our communities safer. That’s the oath we all took. Stop bowing down to the pro-illegal immigrant activists. Let’s do our job to protect our neighborhoods. There should be no sanctuary for those who intentionally violate our laws.

Sanctuary policies are bad and protect no one other than those who have disrespected our country and already intentionally violated our laws. 

I can’t blame anyone who wants to be part of the greatest country on Earth. However, you cannot be part of the greatest country without respecting our laws. You can’t have it both ways.

I am grateful that we have a president who understands the danger sanctuary cities pose. I am also grateful that we have a Department of Justice that is litigating against these dangerous policies. President Trump has been right on this issue from the start, and we need to support him in his drive to protect America and its people.


2 thoughts on “Here’s the truth about sanctuary cities

  1. US Immigration
    and Customs

    ICE Newsroom

    News Releases



    Cooperation between ICE, local law enforcement makes for safer communities

    SEATTLE – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) relies upon the cooperation of local law enforcement officials to expeditiously remove dangerous criminals from our communities. ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations’ (ERO) mission is to identify, arrest and remove aliens who present a danger to national security or are a risk to public safety.

    When ICE officers and agents must go out into the community to proactively locate these criminal aliens, it puts personnel and potentially innocent bystanders at risk. ICE commends our local law enforcement colleagues who work to make it less complicated for ICE to apprehend criminal aliens released from local custody.

    “When local law enforcement decides to uphold sanctuary policies and release illegal criminal aliens without notifying ICE, it is a decision to protect and release criminals who are preying on victims in our communities. By allowing criminal aliens, particularly those with egregious criminal records, to be released it places everyone in potential danger. Danger that very well could be prevented through cooperation with immigration officials”, said Bryan Wilcox, acting field operations director, ERO Seattle.

    Without the cooperation of local officials, EROs ability to perform its federally mandated mission is hindered and dangerous criminal aliens, like those described below, could remain in our communities to reoffend. The expeditious removal of these offenders promotes public safety and reduces the overall cost to taxpayers.

    • Illegal alien arrested for murdering, dismembering victim after local police fail to notify ICE of his release
    In October 2017, ICE identified an illegally present Honduran citizen with prior criminal convictions and four prior removals form the United States and lodged a detainer. When the alien he was released without notification to ICE. In January 2018, he was arrested and booked at a local county jail for murder. ICE has lodged another detainer with local jail officials.

    • I County jail ignores ICE detainer, illegal alien suspected of killing wife after release
    In March 2018, ICE lodged a detainer on a citizen of Mexico who was unlawfully present in the United States after locating him in an Oregon county jail. Jail officials did not honor the immigration detainer and released the convicted criminal two days later, without notifying ICE. Following his release, ICE made multiple, unsuccessful attempts to locate and arrest the man. In October 2018, the subject was arrested again, this time on a felony murder charges.

    • I County jail ignores ICE detainer, Honduran mans suspected of murder after release
    In September 2016, ICE located an illegally present Honduran man with multiple prior criminal convictions being held at a county jail in Washington. ICE lodged a detainer with the jail, but in February 2017, county officials did not honor the detainer and released the man. In July 2017, the subject was again arrested, this time for theft and property destruction. In July 2017, despite criminal charges, convictions and previous immigration removals going back to 2005, county jail officials released the main without notifying ICE. In August 2017, the criminal alien was arrested yet again, this time for homicide and robbery. As of June 2019, the subject was in a local county jail and is being held on both murder and robbery charges.

    • I County jail releases illegal alien, man later kills wife and self in apparent murder-suicide
    In December 2016, ICE located and lodged a detainer on a man being held in a county jail in Washington. The man was a Mexican citizen who was illegally present in the U.S. and had prior immigration encounters. Local jail officials did not honor the immigration detainer and released the convicted criminal in August 2017 without notifying ICE. A little over a month later, the subject shot and killed his estranged wife before taking his own life.

    • I County jail refuses to honor immigration detainer, releases child rapist
    In January 2014, ICE encountered an illegally present citizen of Honduras at a county jail in Kent, Washington. The man was being held on a charge of rape of a child. ICE officers interviewed the man and determined that he was a citizen of Honduras and lodged an immigration detainer. That same month, the immigration detainer was not honored, and the subject was released to the community pending the disposition of his case. In August 2015, the subject was convicted of multiple counts of assault. In February 2017, ICE took the man into custody and removed him from the U.S. in March 2017.

    • I County jail refuses to honor ICE detainer, releases illegal alien convicted of rape
    In June 2013, ICE officers encountered a man at a local county jail in Kent, Washington. ICE officers determined the subject was a citizen of Mexico and lodged an immigration detainer. The subject was later convicted of rape and sentenced to more than a year in jail. After completion of his sentence, the Department of Corrections transferred the man to a local county jail on warrants for driving while impaired and violating a no contact order. In February 2014, ICE lodged a subsequent detainer at the county jail. The detainer was not honored, and that same month, he was released to the community. In July 2014, ICE took the individual into custody, and the subject was removed to Mexico in May 2015.

    • County jail refuses to honor ICE detainer of man who sexually assaulted dog
    In February 2019, an illegally present Mexican citizen was encountered by ICE officials at a local Oregon county jail. ICE lodged an immigration detainer on the man the same day for violating immigration laws. In April 2019, the man was convicted of multiple charges involving animal abuse. The county jail did not honor the immigration detainer and released him without notice to immigration officials. ICE apprehended the man at his residence and served him a notice to appear. He is currently being held at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma pending immigration proceedings.

    A detainer is a request to local law enforcement agencies that ICE be notified as early as practicable – ideally at least 48 hours – before a removable alien is released from criminal custody and then briefly maintain custody of the alien for up to 48 hours to allow ICE to assume custody for removal purposes. ICE lodges detainers on individuals who have been arrested on local criminal charges and are suspected of being deportable, so that ICE can take custody of that person when he or she is released from local authorities. When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders onto the streets, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission.

    ICE maintains that cooperation by local officials is an indispensable component of promoting public safety. Policy makers who strive to make it more difficult to remove dangerous criminal aliens and aim to stop the cooperation of local officials and business partners, harm the very communities whose welfare they have sworn to protect.

    Last Reviewed/Updated: 06/18/2019


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