'Los Angeles Times' Op-Ed Claims Sanctuary Cities 'Keep Crime Down'

We return now to the issue of illegal immigration, particularly the role state and local police officers ought to have in combating it. On Monday, the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed piece on the subject by Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which on its website claims to:

… improve the delivery of police services through the exercise of strong national leadership; public debate of police and criminal justice issues; and research and policy development.

The headline on Mr. Wexler’s piece sums it up nicely:

Police chiefs across the country support sanctuary cities because they keep crime down.

For reasons that evade me, Mr. Wexler devoted two paragraphs in his piece to the etymology of the word “sanctuary” and why it is inaptly used in this context. But so what? Everyone knows that a “sanctuary city” is one where illegal immigrants need not fear that the local police will report them to ICE, regardless of their criminal history.

And of course the police chiefs support sanctuary cities, but not necessarily for the reasons Mr. Wexler claims. As I’ve often reminded readers, in rising through the ranks of most police departments -- and this is especially so in large cities where illegal immigrants are concentrated -- one becomes less of a police officer and more of a politician. And anyone who aspires to the chief’s job in any department must scrupulously toe the line put forth by that city’s mayor and political establishment.

In Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and most other large cities, that means repeating leftist pieties and expressing concern for illegal immigrants, most often by voicing support for so-called “sanctuary city” policies.

Writes Mr. Wexler:

For America’s police chiefs, calls for enhanced enforcement of federal immigration laws bring a particular concern. Chiefs are afraid that such efforts will have the unintended consequence of actually increasing crime and making their communities less safe.

He then seeks to prove his point with three anecdotes, from Laredo, Tucson, and Los Angeles, in which illegal immigrants assisted police in the prosecution of criminals.

No doubt one could cite hundreds of such anecdotes, but Mr. Wexler’s argument strikes me as a circular one. Because we have allowed so many illegal immigrants to settle here, Mr. Wexler appears to be saying, we cannot ask local police to aid in the expulsion of any of them, even the criminals, lest some other criminals go unpunished.

In fairness, we must allow that there is some validity to Mr. Wexler’s argument. For example, I am currently involved in a murder investigation, and among the witnesses to the killing are some who are illegal immigrants. One of them has moved to another state and is now reluctant to return to California for the accused killer’s trial for fear of being caught up in some kind of immigration dragnet at the airport. As unfounded as this fear may be, it is honestly felt. Here in Southern California -- and surely elsewhere -- such fears have been stoked by politically motivated rumor-mongering on Spanish-language media.