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ICE Director Says Sanctuary Jurisdictions Used as Smuggling ‘Selling Tactic’

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan said at the White House today that “ICE officers shouldn’t be condemned because they’re upholding their sworn oath and enforcing the laws that Congress enacted,” contending “there are no raids, there are no sweeps” in cities where mayors have often been resistant to immigration enforcement actions.

At a roundtable with law enforcement officials to discuss sanctuary cities, Homan argued that “these policies are being used by criminal organizations in Mexico and Central America” as “a selling tactic for them to get the smuggled aliens to a sanctuary jurisdiction, where even local law enforcement won’t cooperate with ICE, thereby bankrolling the very criminal organizations that smuggle these aliens, or bankrolling the very criminal organizations that have killed Border Patrol agents and special agents.”

“Further, sanctuary laws help employers to exploit illicit — illegal workers with low wages and poor working conditions,” he said, adding, “I want to be clear on sanctuary policies: ICE isn’t asking local law enforcement to be ICE officers. We don’t want them out making vehicle stops, asking immigration questions. What we want them to do is give federal law enforcement officers unfettered access to a county jail to take custody of somebody that’s in the country illegally and yet commit another crime against a citizen of this country.”

Officer Kevin Graham, the Fraternal Order of Police president in Chicago, said that the officers he represents “are not concerned with somebody coming here for a better life.”

“But they certainly are concerned with somebody who are coming here to be habitual criminal offenders that their entire career is set up to undermine our legal system and to put officers in harm’s way, whether they’re federal officers or local officers,” Graham added.

Sacramento County (Calif.) Sheriff Scott Jones said he was operating “at ground zero for the sanctuary state” while noting that “we don’t do immigration enforcement in the communities — we want people to have the comfort and confidence to call us if they need help.”

“That’s our primary mission. Although, that’s the way it’s portrayed, that we work arm-in-arm in the communities. We just don’t do that. So that piece of it really doesn’t affect law enforcement in California,” Jones said. “But the other piece to which Director Homan spoke is of critical importance to all of law enforcement, poignantly so for the sheriffs because we have corrections. And although we have a large jail system and we have embedded ICE agents in our jail, so very few people are able to slip through the cracks, most jails are not that fortunate. And there are spectacular failures every single day around California and, I’m sure beyond, of folks that ICE wants as part of their priority — criminals that are going to go out and at a known recidivism rate victimize other folks — that we’re unable to capture, apprehend, and keep detained for deportation.”

“…It’s not about the community enforcement for us — when I say ‘us,’ it’s California law enforcement. It is absolutely about cooperating with our federal partners to keep our communities safe, which we’re less able to do now.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose department is suing California over a trio of sanctuary laws, called the jurisdictional rules to limit cooperation with ICE “a radical policy that they’re executing.”

“It’s unacceptable. These are huge matters. The federal and state law enforcement relationships with those jurisdictions can never be the same when this continues to place our officers at risk and their own citizens at risk,” Sessions said. “So we’re not going to sweep it under the rug. This Department of Justice is going to back Kirstjen, and Homeland Security, and Tom and his ICE officers fully and totally. The federal law is the supreme law of the land. It’s been made clear by the Supreme Court that the federal government has immigration responsibility. And we’re going to do our part, and we expect the cities and counties, if they’re going to be partners with us, to participate with us.”

Capping off the roundtable, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said that the “original idea to protect illegal immigrants who were victims… has been contorted; it’s been perverted.”

“And now what we have are sanctuaries for criminals. That’s all it is. It’s a sanctuary for criminals,” she said. “So instead of encouraging law enforcement to work with state and locals, and work with our federal partners, we have elected officials pitting them against each other. They’re brothers sisters, and trying to protect our communities and our country. They’re pitting them against each other rather than looking towards the public good.”

“We’ve talked about the community risk. We’ve talked about the risk to our local and federal law officials trying to do their jobs. And we’ve also talked about the difficulties with the rule of law. This flies right in the face of rule of law, which is what our country is founded on,” Nielsen continued.

The secretary noted that she “began this job concerned,” then was “sort of confused to how anyone could advocate for this.”

“And now I’m horrified,” Nielsen said. “I mean, this is a very real issue. Lives are at stake. Lives are being taken each day. We must work together.”

President Trump didn’t offer specifics on additional plans to combat sanctuary jurisdictions, telling the roundtable participants “we’re going to go at it even faster clip.”

“We’re working very hard and spending a lot of money,” he said. “Unfortunately, we have to spend the money, but we are moving along. We’re working on federal legislation.”

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Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a speciality in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, anti-Semitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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