Opinion: Sanctuary cities endanger American citizens

The cities prevent immigration officers from doing their jobs, protecting criminals instead of the U.S. public.


Illustration by Dan Bartholomew

Ross Mellman, Opinion Editor

This story is one of two opposing pieces on immigration. You can read the other one here

Doing what is right for the safety of American citizens isn’t always easy, nor is it always pretty.

The vast majority of illegal immigrants are no different from you and me. They have the same hopes, the same love of America, and seek the same opportunity to give themselves and their children a better life.


But while many illegal immigrants are here with an innocent purpose, there are countless others whose actions have resulted in the deaths of innocent Americans. These are crimes that should never have taken place and can be avoidable when the correct laws and boundaries are in place.


Yet when an American citizen is killed by an illegal immigrant, we often hear nothing from those who have been so outraged by the family separations at the border in recent months. While family separations affect some 2,000 people, and only result in the temporary separation of parents from their loved ones, sanctuary cities affect millions and have consequences with permanent outcomes.

Why sanctuary cities pose a threat

Sanctuary cities are regions that limit cooperation with federal immigration agents when it comes to detaining illegal immigrants.


And the consequences of these areas could be no better demonstrated than by the heart wrenching story of Kate Steinle. While walking on a pier in San Francisco, a sanctuary city, she was senselessly killed by an illegal immigrant.


Her killer was released from jail only three months earlier because the local sheriff’s department followed sanctuary city policies. The department didn’t cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when its agents requested that the killer be held until immigration authorities could pick him up.


Rather than be detained, her killer, a convicted felon, was returned to the streets where he illegally possessed a handgun. He claimed he accidentally shot Kate while she was walking on the boardwalk with her father.


The life of an innocent woman, embarking upon what was to be the peak of her life, was taken all too early because of the failure of sanctuary city policies.


The parents of Steinle are not separated from their daughter by a chain link fence. They will not see their daughter again upon an executive order, or by enactment of an immigration deal from Congress.

Who are these cities really a sanctuary for?

But her death was not an outlier, as countless Americans have suffered the loss of loved ones killed by illegal immigrants. Whether from drunk driving, narcotics that were trafficked in, or cold blooded murder at the hands of ruthless criminal organizations like MS-13, illegal immigrants can represent a threat to us all.


Many criminal gangs like MS-13 take advantage of unaccompanied illegal minors and use them as pawns with disastrous results.


They have caused many heartbreaks, but none could be more ruthless than the case of 15-year-old Kayla Cuevas and 16-year-old Nisa Mickens. The two were brutally beaten and killed while walking home in the sanctuary city of Brentwood, New York, a town that has seen 17 murder victims of MS-13 in 2016 alone, according to the New York Times.


Of the 13 defendants who were arrested following the murders, 10 of them were in the country illegally, said CBS News.


And around 60-90 percent of MS-13 gang members are estimated to be illegal immigrants, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.


Because ICE is not contacted when an illegal immigrant is arrested in a sanctuary city, a member of MS-13 can be released back onto the streets rather than be lawfully detained and deported. This means that criminals who would normally be held in jail are instead released back onto the streets to wait for a court date for which they may never show.

Where is the outrage?

Kate Steinle, Kayla Cuevas, Nisa Mickens, Ronald De Silva, Tessa Tranchant, Edvin Mendez, and Sergio Triminio are only some out of the hundreds of people whose lives were taken by those who had no legal right to be in the U.S. in the first place. And it is up to us to make their passing have meaning and to prevent tragedies like these from ever happening again.


These are the stories we should be hearing on the news. This is where the outrage should be.


But instead, the media only wants you to be concerned about adults who knowingly enter the country illegally with their children, are subsequently separated, and who bear the responsibility of their actions. This is the same responsibility that U.S. citizens hold when they knowingly commit crimes and are forced to serve jail time and be separated from their children.


These types of tragedies are why many people, including me, wanted a president who would put policies in place to safeguard the American people. This is what needs to be done, instead of embracing policies like sanctuary cities that have undoubtedly led to the deaths of innocent Americans.


Since the election has passed, it has become more obvious that Democrats have not begun the process of rethinking their mistakes in terms of the policies they’ve chosen to embrace as their party platform. And in fact, their hardline stance on sanctuary cities has gotten far worse.


This was exemplified by California Governor Jerry Brown, who last summer declared California a “sanctuary state” despite the resistance of numerous counties. And who could forget when Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney sang and danced with joy over the proclamation of his city being a “sanctuary city?”

Sanctuary cities don’t guarantee safety for all

In Philadelphia, an illegal immigrant by the name of Juan Ramon Vasquez from Honduras was arrested in 2014. When the initial charges were dropped, the Philadelphia police department chose to ignore an ICE detainer place on Vasquez (the same situation as Kate Steinle’s killer) and instead decided to release him back onto city streets.


After his release, he was arrested again, although this time for the rape of a child and for additional unlawful sexual contact with a minor.


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is also persistent in his goal for Chicago to forever remain a sanctuary city. He’s stated that “you are safe in Chicago, you are secure in Chicago… Chicago has in the past been a sanctuary city. … It always will be a sanctuary city.”


Does he think that family members who will eventually lose loved ones due to illegal immigration and sanctuary city policies will actually believe him?


While entering the country and applying for asylum is legal, this is a status that is often falsely claimed. Roughly 5 percent of all asylum applications from Central America are approved, according to United Nations data.  


We have to be able to vet and approve immigrants who will be beneficial to our society as future American citizens. At the same time, we need to have the ability to deny those who may bring us harm.


A porous border and sanctuary cities do not give us this opportunity, as they have been proven to be magnets for criminal activity.


The ultimate goal of our immigration laws must always be focused on guaranteeing and procuring the safety of American citizens. The longer that we wait, the more likely these stories of tragedy may be about someone we hold dear.

Recent Victims of Illegal Immigration

Every name has a story. Here’s a few that you may not have heard about.

Mollie Tibbetts 

Mollie, a 20-year-old University of Iowa student, was last seen jogging on July 18. She was found dead only a month later on Aug. 21. Cristhian Rivera, a 24-year-old illegal immigrant, has been detained on first-degree murder charges in Tibbetts’ death, according to CNN.

Lennox Lake

Six-year-old Lennox was in a vehicle that was struck by a drunk driver. The driver, Constantino Acosta, was previously deported to Mexico 15 times, said the San Diego Union Tribune. Lennox now suffers from permanent memory loss and PTSD from the major brain trauma that he endured during the accident.

Sara Root

Sara, 21, passed away when her SUV was struck by an illegal immigrant, Eswin Mejia, who was street racing, stated the Des Moines Register. Sara had recently graduated Bellevue University with a 4.0 GPA.

Shayley Estes

Shayley, 22, was shot and killed in her home by Igor Zubko, a Russian illegal immigrant who overstayed his visa, according to the Berkshire Eagle.

Drew Rosenberg

Drew was riding his motorcycle and was killed when he was run over three times by Robert Galo, an illegal immigrant who earned temporary protective status, said the Daily Signal. Drew was a second-year law student.

Ross Mellman is the opinion editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @RossMellman.