Editorial: Always Criminals, Never Victims

Eliminating sanctuary cities will fuel delinquency and damage public safety

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Foto: Walter Gómez / EFE

The movement against sanctuary cities claims that its intention is to promote public safety. In reality, however, it aims to force counties, cities and school districts to comply with the requirements of immigration authorities. Ironically, this policy will make the population less safe as immigrant communities lose their trust in local law enforcement authorities.

This is of utmost importance in states such as Florida, where large number of immigrants reside. In fact, proposed House Bill 675 – which seeks to eliminate the policy currently active in 30 states, more than half the state – was being debated on Tuesday. The legislation would require all law enforcement agencies to comply with ICE’s detainers and hand over specific individuals. A detainer only needs to be requested; it does not have the same authority as an arrest warrant and does not need to list any charges against the person.

Criticism against sanctuary cities increased last summer after Kathryn Steinle was shot and killed by an undocumented man in San Francisco. The killer had been released by federal immigration authorities. The tragedy drove other states, including Maryland, Texas and Wisconsin, to consider similar measures. At a federal level, Senator Ted Cruz is one of the main promoters of similar legislation that did not pass in the Senate.

However, Washington’s actions will be unnecessary if GOP-led state legislatures impose their own rules. In Florida, HB 675 now has been green-lit by the corresponding committee and is up for vote, while the state Senate awaits its turn to pass a similar bill, SB 872.

Forcing local authorities to become immigration agents makes them look at immigrants as if they were all dangerous criminals. This perspective could not be further from the truth: Immigrant are frequently victims of crime. This fact can be verified by any police department in a city with a large immigrant population. Newcomers need to be able to trust that the local authorities will not deport them if they denounce a crime committed against them.

It is ignorant to believe that the only possible relationship between undocumented people and the police can happen when the former commits a crime and is arrested. The same goes with acting as if all immigrants are criminals and never the victims.