The number of sanctuary cities has exploded since July, when the issue came into the national spotlight after a young woman was gunned down by an illegal criminal immigrant on a pier on San Francisco.
In July, there were 276 sanctuary cities and counties. Now there are 340, according to a new report by the Center for Immigration Studies citing data from the Department of Homeland Security.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at CIS and author of the report, said the reckless actions of these cities and counties have resulted in the release of an average of 1,000 criminal aliens per month.
One violent illegal-alien offender who is now roaming U.S. streets because of a local sanctuary policy is Francisco Javier Chavez.
In August 2015, Chavez was arrested for brutally beating the 2-year-old daughter of his girlfriend, breaking a leg and both of her arms. Chavez has a long rap sheet, including felony drug and drunken-driving convictions and a prior deportation. ICE issued a detainer, but the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office released him anyway after he posted bail, even though California’s law would have permitted them to hold him.
According to an updated report prepared by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, for Congress, between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, 2014, local sanctuaries released 9,295 alien offenders that ICE was seeking to deport. More than 600 people were released at least twice.
Out of these, 5,947, or 62 percent, of the criminal aliens had criminal histories or other public safety concerns even before the arrest that led to a detainer. And 58 percent of those with a prior history had felony charges or convictions; 37 percent had serious misdemeanor charges, and 5 percent had multiple prior misdemeanors.
“An alarming number – 2,320 – of the total number of released offenders were subsequently arrested within the time period studied for new crimes after they were released by the sanctuaries,” Vaughan wrote.
One of these is Victor Aureliano Hernandez Ramirez, one of two suspects in the brutal July 24 hammer attack against an elderly California woman. Together with an accomplice, he was charged with raping and then bludgeoning 64-year-old Marilyn Pharis of Santa Maria, California. She died eight days later.
Ramirez avoided deportation twice in 15 months. He had been arrested for battery in May 2014 and was in the custody of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff. ICE issued a detainer to begin the deportation process after the charges were resolved, but the sheriff did not comply, apparently in accordance with California’s state sanctuary law that went into effect Jan. 1, 2014.
“Our elected officials must not sit back and watch these sanctuary jurisdictions continue to release thousands of criminal aliens back into our communities in defiance of ICE efforts to deport them, and then witness the harm that inevitably ensues when these removable offenders strike again,” said Vaughan.
Sanctuary cities exploded onto front pages in July, when a Kathryn Steinle, a 32-year-old woman, was killed while walking with her father in San Francisco, and an illegal immigrant released by the county was charged with the shooting.
Vaughan said San Francisco ranked eighth worst on the list of offenders, releasing some 252 immigrants in 2014 that federal officials had asked be held.
ICE was not able to re-apprehend most of the offenders released by the sanctuaries. As of last year, 6,460 or 69 percent were still at large. Of those still at large, 1,377 or 20 percent had another criminal arrest following the one that resulted in the ICE detainer.
Of the 6,460 criminal aliens who were still at large during the time period studied, 3,802, or 58 percent, had prior felonies or violent misdemeanors.
New sanctuary listings
In July, CIS reported that ICE had identified 276 jurisdictions that, as of September 2014, had policies obstructing immigration enforcement, primarily policies to ignore ICE detainers. ICE updated this list in December 2014 to add another 41 jurisdictions that adopted sanctuary policies. They are:
- Lafayette Parish, Louisiana
- Rio Arriba, New Mexico
- Prince George’s County, Maryland
- Montgomery County, Maryland
- Douglas County, Nebraska
- All New Mexico counties
- Northampton, Massachusetts
- Chesterfield County, Virginia
- Clayton County, Georgia
“These jurisdictions have been added to our map of sanctuaries. No jurisdictions were removed from the list by ICE,” Vaughan said.
Vaughan said a DHS spokesperson confirmed to her on Oct. 5 that roughly 340 jurisdictions had adopted non-cooperation policies, but that some of those jurisdictions had recently revised their sanctuary policies to allow at least some cooperation with ICE.
“The spokesperson declined to provide either a list of the 340 total non-cooperative jurisdictions or a list of the ones that had allegedly improved their policies,” according to Vaughan.
ICE has identified the 20 jurisdictions with the most rejected detainers. The vast majority are in California.