'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.

Let me say that I don’t think America’s interests would be well-served by deporting the murder witness I referred to above. She strikes me as a kind and conscientious woman whose continued presence in the country should be viewed as an asset, not a liability. And any cop who has spent time working in areas heavily populated by illegal immigrants has met hundreds of such people, people who have assimilated into American life and ask no more than to remain here and continue their contributions to society.

But we must also acknowledge that the presence of these people, illegal immigrants who are otherwise law-abiding, has come at a price.

Mr. Wexler bolsters his position with anecdotes, but, unfortunately for him, on the day after his piece appeared in Los Angeles Times there appeared a story that ran counter to his argument.

On Tuesday, the Times reported on the case of Estuardo Alvarado, 45, who is being held in Los Angeles on charges of murder, vehicular manslaughter, felony drunk driving, and felony hit-and-run. Prosecutors allege that on Feb. 19, Alvarado was drunk when he became involved in a traffic collision, and while fleeing from it he was involved in a second collision that took the life of Sandra Duran, 42.

According to the Times, Alvarado has been deported to Mexico five times since 1998.

But even in printing the story, the left-leaning Los Angeles Times doesn’t tell its readers how truly egregious Alvarado’s presence in the country was. For that you have to rely on the Los Angeles Daily News story (which the Times story links to), where you will learn that since 1990, Alvarado has been charged with more than 20 felonies and misdemeanors.

Even before Ms. Duran’s tragic death, how many crime victims might have been spared injury or property loss had Mr. Alvarado been prevented from entering the United States? If not on his first attempt, then perhaps at least on one of his next five?

It was once taken as a given that criminal illegal immigrants deserved to be deported. This was true even among those sympathetic to illegal immigrants. No longer. Despite being ineligible to vote (which is not to say that none do), illegal immigrants have coalesced into a political constituency with the power to alter public policy. In an earlier piece here on PJ Media, I discussed Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy and his instructions to the state’s police officers that they not cooperate with ICE agents. These instructions, I argued, would one day put a police officer in the position of choosing between preserving his livelihood and protecting his community.

Not long after that piece was published, I learned of a police officer in Washington state who faced just such a choice and, in the view of Washington Governor Jay Inslee, chose wrongly. A state trooper was investigating a traffic collision on the I-5 when he spoke with Armando Chavez Corona, a convicted drug felon who had been deported to Mexico four times between 1996 and 2000. The trooper did not arrest Corona, but he notified the local ICE office, which dispatched agents to the scene to take the man into custody. According to the Tacoma News Tribune:

[T]he State Patrol is reviewing whether the trooper followed an internal policy that limits how much troopers can do to help federal immigration officials.

This is beyond asinine. Politicians like Governors Inslee and Malloy expect police officers to enforce the laws of their states while turning a blind eye to federal immigration laws. In such thinking are the seeds of corruption, for when some laws can be ignored in the service of politics, others soon will be, perhaps in the service of different politicians.

If we truly are a nation of laws, let them be enforced.