As Bill De Blasio, Rahm Emanuel and other open-borders mayors threaten to obstruct ICE attempts to locate illegal aliens in their jurisdictions, most immigration-control advocates have been focusing on just one form of counter-measure: grants. True, restricting law enforcement funds such as Byrne JAG grants, COPS grants, and SCAAP funds would indeed serve as a strong wake-up call to city officials choosing to flout federal law. But the new administration could and should employ a host of other more targeted tools. Here are examples of standard long-established enforcement measures, routine actions fully backed by Congress, that could be more effective in restoring agency practices to levels needed to sustain America’s immigration system, the most generous and open in the world.

About half of all legal and illegal aliens go to just five cities in the country, all of which have aggressive illegal alien harbouring programs: New York, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco-Oakland.


The ICE Director in the new administration should station agents at the major jails in these urban centers to ID and detain removable aliens released after serving jail sentences. Although federal regulations state that law enforcement officials in receipt of ICE detainers shall maintain custody of the alien for 48 hours, many agencies in pro-harboring cities refuse and instead release convicted and often violent aliens back into American communities.

Big city pro-harboring mayors should no longer expect to reap political benefits from resisting national immigration laws.  

Most of our men and women in law enforcement are very aware that providing “sanctuary” to illegal aliens acts like a magnet for more to come. They “refuse” to cooperate with ICE out of fear of expensive lawsuits launched by open-borders law firms (with the demoralizing encouragement of the outgoing administration)—See the latest threat made by Ford Foundation-funded open-borders attorneys against Sheriff Thomas Hodgson of Bristol County, Massachusetts. The new DOJ could immediately reassure our nation’s law enforcement officers that the feds have their backs on illegal immigration’s front lines. The current extreme DOJ climate of intimidation of law enforcement cooperation would soon begin to thaw. 

DOJ could also proactively defend local police officers who bring complaints of intimidation and retaliation in violation of § 642 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act and § 434 of the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. These two provisions prohibit state and local governments from restricting federal requests for information about any person’s immigration status and mandate that local officials may not be barred from maintaining such information. Without question, such information-sharing between state and local governments and the feds is the law of the land.

With a focus on harboring havens, President-elect Trump could revitalize through Executive Order the workplace enforcement actions that had been dwindling for years until effectively killed off by George W. Bush in 2007. Workplace actions go far in protecting American workers. Illegal aliens apprehended during such raids are important sources of testimony regarding the hiring practices of their employers, who could then be prosecuted for knowingly employing unauthorized workers and other workplace violations, including racketeering in pernicious cases. Audits of employers’ I-9 forms, which were meant to replace workplace actions, are another cost-effective program that was gutted under Obama but could quickly be ramped back up in the major sanctuary havens.

The new ICE Director should also mandate that all illegal aliens apprehended in sanctuary jurisdictions be issued with a Notice-To-Appear, the charging document that starts removal hearings in immigration courts. ICE agents under Obama began receiving orders in 2014 not to issue NTAs to aliens who claim to have been in the country before January of that year. This so-called ‘catch-and-release’ or ‘notice-to-disappear’ policy quickly sparked complaints from agents when the number of apprehended aliens making such claims skyrocketed.

Obstructionist cities, like Chicago and others, are preparing illegal alien ID programs, which fly in the face of identification standards called for in the REAL ID act (enacted in response to the 9/11 hijackings) and our voter-integrity laws. DHS could quickly suppress the attraction of these free fake ID programs by interpreting the cooperation provisions of the INA to include the sharing of any of the programs’ underlying data held by states. In New York, De Blasio has already threatened to destroy his city’s “IDNYC” program databases; an unlawful and expensive response to a self-created problem.

None of these actions would require Obama-style extra-statutory prosecutorial discretion. They simply restore traditional routine immigration enforcement activities in jurisdictions where lawlessness has been condoned by the feds for purely partisan political reasons. Turning off the illegal immigration magnet by ending sanctuary harboring policies would go far in restoring the public’s confidence that it is the voters who get to decide who and how many can come into our communities and how best to manage America’s immigration flows.

Smith is an investigative associate with the Immigration Reform Law Institute and Hethmon is a senior counsel for IRLI.

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.