Guest column

Sanctuary policies pose a risk to us all

By Mark Klaassen
Posted 3/12/20

Effective law enforcement almost always involves good partnerships. From local cops on the beat to federal agents investigating trans-national drug trafficking organizations, collaboration at all …

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Guest column

Sanctuary policies pose a risk to us all


Effective law enforcement almost always involves good partnerships. From local cops on the beat to federal agents investigating trans-national drug trafficking organizations, collaboration at all levels is essential to getting the job done.

In most cases, law enforcement agencies readily work together to achieve their mission, but in some places, a disturbing trend is emerging. We are beginning to see instances of politicians putting ideology ahead of their oaths, directing law enforcement to selectively ignore or undermine enforcement of certain laws simply because they disagree. Nowhere is this trend more evident than in jurisdictions where sanctuary policies are enacted to prevent cooperation and thwart federal immigration enforcement.

When it comes to immigration, the job of law enforcement is not to take sides on this politically divisive issue. Our mission is to enforce the law as enacted — not as some may wish it to be based on a personal or partisan viewpoint.

While our mission is clear, we must balance myriad demands with limited resources. This requires us to set priorities, and conduct targeted enforcement. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is not, as some may assume, engaging in random immigration checks or roundups of suspected illegal aliens. The agency is focused instead on identifying and removing criminal aliens — non-citizens who commit crimes that put our communities at risk.

The Obama administration estimated in 2012 that there were nearly 2 million removable criminal aliens in the United States. These individuals may have committed drug offenses, assaults, robberies, murders or other crimes in addition to possible immigration-related violations. With the continued flow of illegal border crossings over the past several years, the number of criminal aliens in the United States is likely even higher now.

Whatever your position on immigration policy, hopefully we can agree those who enter the country and commit crimes should not be allowed to remain in the United States with impunity. Unfortunately, in many areas outside of Wyoming, state and local jurisdictions are enacting sanctuary laws and policies preventing law enforcement officers from cooperating with federal agents in the process of enforcing immigration laws. Advocates for these policies often disingenuously characterize them as merely separating localities from involvement in federal immigration enforcement, when in effect the refusal to cooperate serves to obstruct that effort.

One of the most common sanctuary policies is to ignore or refuse requests from ICE to provide advance notice of the release of criminal aliens who are in state or local custody. This prevents federal agents from immediately securing the alien upon release for removal purposes. When federal agents eventually find the criminal alien after release, they must effect an arrest, which puts the lives of officers and others at risk.

Other jurisdictions are even more restrictive, prohibiting law enforcement personnel from having communication of any kind with federal immigration authorities. When information is not shared, criminal aliens remain at-large and have the opportunity to commit other crimes. These policies are tragic for the victims of crimes that could have been prevented.

Here in Wyoming, we have no sanctuary jurisdictions. We are fortunate to partner with state and local leaders and law enforcement agencies committed to the protection of our communities. My office prosecutes dozens of criminal alien cases each year, in many instances relying on the assistance and cooperation of local authorities to identify and obtain custody of these offenders.

Even though we do not have sanctuary jurisdictions in our state, we are not immune from the risks of these policies elsewhere. When other jurisdictions refuse requests for information and cooperation, criminal aliens remain at-large or may be released from custody to commit further crimes, including crimes in non-sanctuary jurisdictions like Wyoming. Simply put, sanctuary policies anywhere pose a risk to communities everywhere.

In carrying out our immigration enforcement mandate, we are upholding the rule of law that is essential to continued peace and prosperity here in Wyoming and across the nation.

The United States has always been a beacon of hope and freedom — a welcoming place of opportunity for lawful immigrants who seek a better life. It will remain that refuge only so long as law and order prevails in our communities, and our leaders resist the urge to subvert the cooperation essential to effective law enforcement for the sake of political convenience.

(Mark Klaassen is the U.S. Attorney for the District of Wyo-ming. He is based in Cheyenne.)

Guest column