'Sanctuary cities' legislation must tackle 'sanctuary nation' policies

It isn't just cities that release criminal foreign citizens with felony convictions into our local communities, often with tragic results like the ones that recently have caught the public and congressional attention.

Yes, Congress must act to defund sanctuary cities until they cooperate with federal enforcement agencies. But Congress must also address the largest sanctuary jurisdiction of all: the federal government.

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Federal entities release nearly four times as many criminal aliens as do cities and other local jurisdictions with sanctuary policies. New legislation must include mandatory detainers for criminal aliens as well as mandatory communications between state and local and federal agencies.

According government data released to the Center for Immigration Studies through a Freedom of Information Act request, 276 sanctuary jurisdictions nationwide refused to comply with ICE detainers and released more than 8,000 criminal-alien offenders over eight months. In less than a year's time, nearly one-out-of-every-four released criminals had been arrested for subsequent offenses.

But ICE itself released 30,000 convicted criminal aliens in 2014 (and another 36,000 in 2013), according to data obtained by the House Judiciary Committee. 

A DHS Inspector General report earlier this year found that DHS could not "definitively determine" how many released aliens absconded or were subsequently arrested for criminal acts. This is quite possibly by design. When it comes to illegal immigration, the Obama administration wants less information, not more.

As part of his 2014 executive action, President Obama ended the Secure Communities program, which ICE describes as "a simple and common sense way to carry out ICE's priorities....Under Secure Communities, the FBI automatically sends the fingerprints to DHS to check against its immigration databases. If these checks reveal that an individual is unlawfully present in the United States or otherwise removable due to a criminal conviction, ICE takes enforcement action."

Not anymore.

The administration directed ICE to change its priorities. Under new guidelines,  ICE agents may not ask local agencies to hold arrested aliens unless they are physically there to take custody. Instead, agents may only request notification in advance of the alien's release. ICE agents are no longer prioritizing illegal aliens who commit certain felonies like identity theft or (as was the case in San Francisco) drug possession. 

The president's executive actions are part of a larger strategy to allow as many illegal aliens as possible to remain in the United States. That policy has added to the 347,000 convicted criminal aliens who are currently released into the interior, 1,400 of whom are known to have committed new crimes. Their victims are collateral damage of federal government's sanctuary policies.

Members of Congress have introduced several well-intentioned bills to crack down on local sanctuary policies, but the one that also fully addresses the federal government's sanctuary policies is the Davis-Oliver Act, introduced (S.1640) in the Senate by Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsMueller's investigation ends, but divisive political circus will continue Mueller delivers report to Justice, ending investigation Trump says 'people will not stand' for Mueller report MORE (R-Ala.) and in the House (H.R.1148) by Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyTop Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview Gowdy calls congressional hearings like Cohen's 'utterly useless' The family secret Bruce Ohr told Rod Rosenstein about Russia case MORE (R-S.C.). 

Only the Davis-Oliver Act will fix the misguided policies that have resulted in nearly 70,000 criminal aliens being released by the federal government over the past two years.  

Beck is president and founder of NumbersUSA, an immigration reduction organization.  www.NumbersUSA.com