A new Government Accountability Report found that the number of criminal aliens incarcerated in California rose to 102,795 in 2009, a 17 percent increase since 2003. According to federal auditors, more than one in four of the illegal immigrants imprisoned in California are locked up for drug offenses. The average inmate has been arrested a shocking seven times at an average $34,000 annual cost.
The facilitator that allows criminal aliens to roam free is the sanctuary city policy which bans law enforcement officers and municipal employees from asking about an individual's immigration status. Hundreds of cities across the United States, including some of the largest, have declared that illegal immigrants can live without the fear that local authorities may alert ICE of their whereabouts. Even Washington D.C., the nation's capital and U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement's headquarters is a sanctuary. Others include New York, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and -- well, you get my point.
In 1979, Los Angeles adopted one of the first sanctuary city policies when it issued an internal memorandum that stated: "Officers shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person. Officers shall neither arrest nor book persons for violation of title 8, section 1325 of the United States Immigration code (Illegal Entry)."
In a crime-ridden city like Los Angeles with its huge illegal alien population Special Order 40, as it's known, is a continuing bone of contention between safety-conscious citizens and the police department. Police cannot deport criminals until they have already committed a felony or a series of misdemeanors. For the victims, deportation after the face is cold comfort.
Unfortunately for Los Angeles residents, Special Order 40 has had the long standing support of the city's police chiefs dating back to Daryl Gates in the late 1970s. This January current Police Chief Charlie Beck, while noting that that Special Order 40 is no longer "special" because it's been written into the police manual, reaffirmed its status.
In 2007, San Francisco also made its sanctuary city official when it issued identification cards to residents including illegal immigrants. With the card, approved by the City Council by a 10-1 vote, aliens could qualify for municipal services. Mayor Gavin Newsom, a then-gubernatorial candidate, declared: "I will not allow any of my department heads or anyone associated with this city to cooperate in any way shape or form with these [federal] raids. We are a sanctuary city, make no mistake about it."
The fallout from sanctuary city indulgence is grave. During the last five years, studies including one by Manhattan Institute's Heather MacDonald found that in Los Angeles about two-thirds of all outstanding fugitive felony warrants are for illegal aliens. They include more than 90 percent for homicide.
For a criminal, his game plan is simple. If he commits a crime in a non-sanctuary city, he simply flees to a safe haven like Los Angeles.
In brief, city governments that endorse sanctuary city practices aid and abet illegal immigration and the serious crime that often accompanies it.
The outrageous immunity policy is tough to get rid of. Despite a strong 2007 warning from Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff that he would no longer tolerate sanctuary cities and a similar message from some 2008 presidential and Congressional candidates who threatened to withhold funding to non-compliant cities, little has changed. The only difference is that to the dismay to law abiding citizens and taxpayers, the numbers of jailed criminal aliens and the costs to house them are greater than ever.
This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.
Joe Guzzardi is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS). He can be reached at JoeGuzzardi@CAPSweb.org.