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Opinion: Sanctuary cities endanger American citizens

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

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Opinion: Sanctuary cities endanger American citizens

Illustration by Dan Bartholomew

Illustration by Dan Bartholomew

Illustration by Dan Bartholomew

Illustration by Dan Bartholomew

Ross Mellman, Opinion Editor

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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.

About the Writer
Ross Mellman, Managing Editor

Ross is a senior political science major who previously worked as a contributing writer and the opinions editor. He is also a pre-med student, and his...


3 Responses to “Opinion: Sanctuary cities endanger American citizens”

  1. Stephan Schneider on September 18th, 2018 7:20 pm

    Rebuttal to Ross

    I take great issue with this article. Let me preface by stating that Ross and I are very close friends (Hi Ross!).

    While eloquent in his writing, I unfortunately do not think this argument holds much merit. Indeed, I would say that this piece is akin to holding a magnifying glass on the issue and saying it is a big problem. The truth of the matter is that these select instances presented by Ross does not represent the entirety of undocumented immigration in the United States. A simple look at the evidence Ross presents to support his argument can show this. Without context, they appear damning but when the magnifying glass is removed, we realize that the truth is far different than what we are being told.

    Ross claims that “many criminal gangs like MS-13 take advantage of unaccompanied illegal minors and use them as pawns with disastrous results.” He cites the Center for Immigration Studies who says that “around 60-90 percent of MS-13 gang members are estimated to be illegal immigrants.” Ignoring the fact that this organization is documented as being in favor of low immigration policies, a quick look at their study shows that there is a lot of context missing. If you take the time to look at their study, you’ll see that there were only actually only 15 cases of declined ICE detainers for MS-13 members. Other gang members brought the number up to 127. That means that there are 127 cases out of the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Because Ross brought up the separated children, it’s laughable to compare these numbers. 3,000 separated immigrant children and 127 cases of gang members with declined ICE detainers. Ross, as you can see, the outrage is in the right place.

    The truth is that illegal immigration holds no correlation with crime rates. Indeed, as this NPR story documents,, illegal immigration does not increase violent crime. this conclusion was reached according to 4 different studies done on the topic. All of them came to the same conclusion. And yet, given the evidence to the contrary, Ross joins the 7 out of 10 GOP voters in Texas who believe that all undocumented immigrants should be deported.

    I believe that it is plain wrong to present an argument that ties these horrendous individual instances of murder with immigration policy and sanctuary cities as a whole. For me, it’s slightly personal as I work in an immigration law firm where we see first hand how tough it is to be an immigrant. There is also the hypocrisy in the argument. For a conservative to decry democrats as politicizing tragedy when they talk about gun control after each mass shooting, this reeks of hypocrisy.

    Ross is in a tough position because he does truly believe in a controversial belief. It’s important to recognize that Ross should not be demonized for taking this stance. he is entitled to his beliefs and our nation thrives on diverse viewpoints… even if some of them are wrong(ish). That said, promoting a controversial belief requires more responsibility in framing an argument.

    Personally, I would have much preferred if Ross framed his argument as a need to strengthen sanctuary city policies to plug in these holes. Instead of painting sanctuary cities as something that American citizens should be outraged at and that threaten our safety, he should have taken a reasonable stance by painting them as an imperfect institution. He’s right that the 5 victims lamentably killed (by the way, 3 of them were struck by a car, not vicariously shot) deserve to be remembered. I’m sure their parents all hope that their deaths will stand for something. Let us take a look at parents of children killed by drunk drivers; they seek to educate the public of the dangers of drinking and driving while seeking to ensure that drunk drivers are limited. What they don’t do is advocate an alcohol prohibition or getting rid of cars. In that same vein, we must seek to perfect our institutions, not demonize them.

    Thus, I hope that my fellow readers will note that it is important to take context into account. Do not let fear blind you of your periphery. Political administration will never be perfect but we can always strive to improve through narrow and pointed critique. I believe that our public discourse would be better served with this kind of debate.

  2. MicheleRyan on September 18th, 2018 8:40 pm

    I will vote this election for candidates who prioritize citizens over illegal aliens (bet you thought that was a given …not anymore), those who oppose sanctuary cities, amnesty and taxpayer funded in state college tuition discounts for illegals. That means NO Democrats. Gallup poll- almost 60% of Democrats now view socialism positively, little changed from 2010 survey.

    Sanctuary cities? Eventually, as cities across the country begin announcing they will NOT be sanctuary the criminals, gang members,Illegal aliens living there will flock to the nearest welcoming sanctuary city. Than city will get an increase in crime and expenses. The only real justice is the people who live in these sanctuary cities will get exactly what they wanted and fought for. A city that is sanctuary to felons, illegal aliens fleeing ICE and fugitives….with more arriving every day.

    The current migration at our southern border is costing taxpayers a Kings Ransom. Fleeing persecution? or fleeing for freebies? they sure don’t stay in Mexico when they reach “safety” or ask for political asylum in Mexico. Why? because Mexico will give them NOTHING. So they make the long journey to our border, our generous Democrats and our tax dollars.

    When you reward illegal immigration with jobs, amnesty, drivers licenses, discounts for college tuition, scholarships encourages MORE illegal entry.. Just debating DACA in congress is costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars….. thank the parents.

    Just a few examples of the more outrageous costs associated with illegal immigration, we will pass this burden on to our children and grand children as has been passed on to us

    *The cost of educating illegal aliens children is staggering. From K-12 it costs taxpayers $122,000 for EACH illegal alien student. This does not include the billions spent on bilingual education for illegal aliens.

    *Taxpayers in numerous states are funding in state college tuition discounts for illegal aliens. Cost to taxpayers over a billion dollars annually.

    *2016 illegal aliens sent home $62 BILLION in remittances back to their countries of origin. This is why Mexico is getting involved in our politics.

    *30% percent of all Federal Prison inmates are illegal aliens.Does not include local jails and State Prisons. At $21,000 per year expense per inmate in Federal Prison U do the math.

    *$3Million Dollars a DAY is spent to incarcerate, process Illegal aliens in the Criminal justice system. I repeat 3 MILLION a DAY.

    *$2.2Billion dollars a year is spent on is spent on food assistance programs such as SNAP (food stamps) WIC, & free school lunches.

    If you OPPOSE illegal immigration, taxpayer funds used for illegal aliens, sanctuary cities, amnesty for millions of illegal aliens, weak border security, tax increases. VOTE NO for ALL Democrats this November.

  3. Mira Dean on September 19th, 2018 7:14 pm

    Liberal Democrat BILL NELSON and Socialist ANDREW GILLUM are running for Senate & Governor respectively. Nelson / Gillum both proudly supports abolishing ICE, sanctuary cities, amnesty for millions of illegal aliens, using taxpayer funds for illegal aliens & DACA. In addition, both are weak on border security and national defense.

    If you OPPOSE illegal immigration, taxpayer funds used for illegal aliens, sanctuary cities, amnesty r Please VOTE NO for BILL NELSON & ANDREW GILLUM this November….we can’t afford anymore Democrats.

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