Sanctuary Insanity
Author: Lisa Van Houten  

There’s a fundamental problem in our nation when lawbreakers are protected at the expense of citizens.  That was hammered home recently with two illegal immigrants brutally raped a 14 year old girl in a Rockville, Maryland high school bathroom. 

The 17 and 18 year old suspects had been stopped at the U.S. border, but under Obama’s policies were still allowed to enter the United States illegally.  When the attack occurred, these two men were enrolled as freshmen in the Rockville high school.

This is only the latest of a rash of horrific crimes committed by illegal aliens in recent years.

-Kate Steinle, shot and killed while sight-seeing with her parents in San Francisco by illegal immigrant Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez who had found “sanctuary” in San Francisco after having been deported five times.

-Mirta Rivera, a grandmother and nurse, shot and killed by two illegal immigrants who were living freely in the same apartment building as she - despite being under federal orders for deportation.

-Marilyn Pharis, a 64-year-old Air Force veteran, raped and murdered in her home by an illegal immigrant from Mexico who had been arrested six times in the previous six months – yet had not been deported.

-Grant Ronnebeck, 21 years old, murdered as he worked in a convenience store by Apolinar Altamirano, an illegal immigrant and member of a drug cartel. 

The list could go on and on.  Yet for each high profile account of criminal acts committed by illegal aliens, there are many more that the American public hears little about. 

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) estimates that there are more than 1.2 million criminal aliens at large within the United States.  As Fox News reported:  “Each year, about 900,000 legal and illegal immigrants are arrested, and 700,000 are released from jail, prison, or probation.”

In many cases, local authorities are ignoring federal immigration law by refusing to notify ICE of the immigration status of criminals arrested or cooperate with deportation proceedings.

In January, Oregon judge Monica Herranz helped an illegal immigrant, Diddier Pacheco Salazar, escape arrest from ICE agents who were waiting to arrest him. Salazar was in court facing DUI charges while federal Immigration officials waited outside the courtroom to detain him on illegal immigration charges.  While the ICE agents waited, the judge allowed Salazar to escape through a private courtroom exit.

The U.S. Attorney for Oregon, Billy Williams, expressed concern that a judge, sworn to uphold the law, was instead aiding and abetting a criminal, as he stated: “I was troubled because, on the face of it, what I heard sounded like potential federal criminal law violations and/or ethical violations.  Generally, we're talking about obstruction of justice.  When you’re talking about the judicial system – whether it’s federal or by state – you have an expectation that people are going to abide by the law and not take steps based on their own motivations, their own politics – whatever the motivation was.”

Yet this judge is not an isolated case.  Federal law requires state and local agencies to inform ICE when they have illegal immigrants in custody, whether or not they were convicted of a crime.  Yet all across the country, local government and law enforcement officials are ignoring and obstructing federal immigration laws.  In a growing trend, cities, counties, and even states are declaring themselves “sanctuaries” for illegal immigrants – refusing to cooperate with ICE officials, even when the illegal immigrants commit horrific crimes.

In California, a “sanctuary state” bill - Senate Bill 54– is on the verge of becoming law.  The bill prohibits all California enforcement agencies from using their department resources, including money, facilities, property, equipment or personnel, to assist with federal enforcement of immigration law. State and local law enforcement agencies will be prohibited from asking about immigration status, giving federal immigration authorities access to interview a person in custody or assisting ICE in immigration enforcement.

The state of Maryland – where the horrific rape of the 14 year old girl mentioned above occurred – is also considering similar legislation, seeking to protect illegal aliens from deportation at the expense of their own constituents. 

This trend isn’t just limited to a few states.  This map from Center for Immigration Studies details the hundreds of cities, counties, and states which “have laws, ordinances, regulations, resolutions, policies, or other practices that obstruct immigration enforcement and shield criminals from ICE — either by refusing to or prohibiting agencies from complying with ICE detainers, imposing unreasonable conditions on detainer acceptance, denying ICE access to interview incarcerated aliens, or otherwise impeding communication or information exchanges between their personnel and federal immigration officers.”

Lansing became the first “sanctuary” city in Michigan when the city council recently voted unanimously to not cooperate with federal immigration law.

U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, whose district includes Lansing, called the city’s sanctuary policy “completely reckless” and stated that it“sends a dangerous message that local governments or individuals can simply pick and choose which laws they wish to follow.  Not only have they completely ignored the input and safety of legal residents and families in Lansing, but they have disregarded every immigrant who has followed the law by coming into our country the legal way.”

In city after city, just like Lansing, the protection of illegal immigrants from deportation is placed over and above the welfare of the community and the citizens our government officials and law enforcement agencies are supposedly sworn to protect and serve. 

As illegals are arrested, local law enforcement officials are being instructed not to contact ICE regarding their immigration status.  Instead, they are often released back into the community only to commit further crime.     For example, in the case of Kate Steinle mentioned above, her killer was a seven-time convicted felon, but was on the streets again as a direct result of San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy.  In spite of the fact the ICE had filed a detainer to have Lopez-Sanchez held in custody until he could be picked up, San Francisco authorities released him – leading to the murder of Steinle.

Hans von Spakovsky, writing for the Daily Signal, details some shocking statistics regarding criminal aliens and repeat offenses, listed below.

-According to the Department of Homeland Security, in just one eight-month period in 2014, more than 8,100 deportable aliens were released by sanctuary jurisdictions.

-Three thousand of them were felons and 62 percent had a prior criminal record. Nineteen hundred of them were later rearrested a total of 4,300 times for 7,500 different criminal offenses.”

-A 2005 report from the Government Accountability Office that examined the criminal histories of 55,322 illegal aliens in federal, state, and local prisons revealed that they had been arrested 459,614 times and committed almost 700,000 crimes—an average of almost 13 offenses per illegal alien.

-Those crimes ranged from murder to robbery to sex-related offenses. Eighty percent of the arrests occurred in just three states: California, Texas, and Arizona.

-A 2011 report, also from the Government Accountability Office, showed more of the same. Just 215,000 criminal aliens in federal, state, and local prisons had been arrested nearly 1.7 million times for close to 3 million criminal offenses.

Behind these statistics are millions of Americans who have been victimized by illegal immigrants – crimes which never would have taken place if our immigration laws were enforced.

As Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated recently: "Failure to deport aliens who are convicted of criminal offenses puts whole communities at risk, especially immigrant communities in the very sanctuary jurisdictions that seek to protect the perpetrators."   

After eight years of lax enforcement of immigration laws under President Obama, the Trump administration is sending a strong message to sanctuary cities that there’s a new sheriff in town.  In recent weeks Sessions has warned that the Justice Department will cut off federal funding to sanctuary cities and the Department of Homeland Security has began publishing a weekly list of crimes committed by illegal immigrants.

That’s not sitting too well with liberal mayors of sanctuary cities who are vowing to defy federal law. 

Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, now mayor of Chicago, defiantly stated:

“I want to be clear: We’re gonna stay a sanctuary city."

New York Mayor Bill De Blasio illogically claims enforcing immigration law will make his city less safe, as he stated: “Here in New York City and in cities across the nation, this executive order could in fact undermine public safety and make our neighborhoods less safe.”

And I’d love to see Boston Mayor Marty Walsh follow through with his claim to turn his office into housing for illegal immigrants rather than see them deported:  “If people want to live here, they’ll live here. They can use my office. They can use any office in this building.”

Yet looking at this issue from a Christian worldview, isn’t there Biblical precedent for “sanctuary cities”?  After all, the Old Testament makes stipulations for “cities of refuge.”  Yet James K. Hoffmeier writing for Religion News Service explains the difference between ancient cities of refuge and modern day “sanctuary cities.”

“According to these biblical passages dealing with the practice of sanctuary in the Bible, it is clear that its purpose was limited exclusively for offenders who had accidentally or unintentionally killed someone, thereby providing a place where their case could be heard. Sanctuary was never intended as a place to avoid “the law” and the consequences of criminal behavior, but to allow the law to take its proper course rather than unwarranted vengeful retaliation when it was not called for. Consequently, American cities, counties and universities that offer sanctuary for foreigners who have broken American laws regulating entry to our country cannot claim to be following the practice described in the Bible. Rather, they are twisting biblical statutes to political ends and subverting federal law.”

What will be the ultimate price as the lawlessness of government officials breeds even greater lawlessness?  As the rule of law is abandoned, it’s not just jobs and national security that are being sacrificed on the altar of liberal ideology, but the very safety and well-being of our children and families.

Action step:  Contact Attorney General Jeff Session to thank him and encourage him in his efforts to uphold our nation’s immigration law.  Listed below are several forms of contact information and a sample letter to use in emailing or writing him. 

Email using this link:

Sample letter: (copy and paste)

Dear Mr. Attorney General,

I’m writing to thank you for your strong stance in upholding our nation’s immigration laws and opposing the reckless so-called “sanctuary city” policies that put at risk the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens.

I encourage you to continue to hold accountable local and state governmental leaders who are placing the welfare of illegal aliens over and above the security of their own constituents.

While such liberal ideologues defy the law, as you have stated:  "The American people know that when cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe.”

Thank you for your commitment to uphold and enforce the rule of law.  As you face opposition from those pushing a radical agenda, know that there are millions of Americans like me who stand with you.



The Department of Justice may be contacted by phone at the following:

Department Comment Line: 202-353-1555
Department of Justice Main Switchboard: 202-514-2000

Or by mail at:

The Honorable Jeff Sessions - Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington DC  20530-0001

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