Russell Hebets Feb. 16, 2017

In 2015, a woman named Kathryn Steinle was murdered by a stray bullet in San Francisco. Her killer was an undocumented immigrant male. Steinle’s tragic death is one that opponents of sanctuary cities often cite when explaining why they are against them. In her case, the murderer had actually been deported several times for other crimes, but slipped back in. Prior to the tragic incident, he was asked to be held for Immigration's and Customs Enforcement, however, in keeping with the city’s sanctuary policy, the police released him. For many who oppose sanctuary cities and who desire stricter immigration standards, the primary concern is safety and Steinle’s murder exemplifies this.

In addition to safety concerns, there is the fact that cities that provide sanctuary are running counter to federal law by not cooperating. From this point of view it may be understandable that the federal government would not want to reward cities financially without their cooperation in such matters.

Lastly, the President and others who support a stricter immigration policy argue that the costs for immigration are too high and estimate the expense at approximately 113 billion. The breakdown on this is unclear as undocumented immigrants cannot use welfare, nor can they receive tax refunds for fear of being deported. But the belief is that additional services for safety and education are utilized by all and more people add to the costs.

Denver and Immigration

Denver metro has a very high number of undocumented immigrants at about 130,000; within the city limits there are 55,000. Because of its status as a sanctuary city, Denver risks losing 175 million dollars of federal aid due to the President’s executive order. However, Mayor Hancock argues that since the definition of sanctuary is unofficial, the order cannot be enforced and he intends to fight any attempt to withhold federal funding. He risks this valuable funding because he has also stated he does not want to break families up by deporting individuals for minor crimes.

Crimes of Moral Turpitude

A crime of moral turpitude is one so grave that if a person without citizenship commits one, they may be deported. This is a long standing policy in immigration. But many believe that sanctuary cities are interfering with this. These crimes include murder, rape, assault, kidnapping, felony theft, and fraud among several others. However, sanctuary city supporters argue that the immigrants they protect from ICE have not committed crimes of this severity and most of the crimes are considered very low level.

Regardless of the severity of the crime, however, ICE (on orders from the current administration) wants to deport anyone unauthorized. In fact, the efforts have now gone past those who are picked up by police to neighborhood raids of homes, regardless of criminal records.

While there is still some question about the precise costs and the precise danger that exists by offering sanctuary to immigrants, the paramount concern remains safety. As the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, argues, even if immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate, the fact that those crimes may not have happened at all had the immigrant been deported is the greater issue.

Stay tuned, our final blog in this series will discuss the reasons for supporting Sanctuary cities.