WASHINGTON – Republicans lambasted the Obama administration’s immigration policies during a contentious, three-hour House oversight hearing Tuesday.
Several representatives argued that the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration policies fail to detain illegal immigrants convicted of crimes in the U.S., citing the murder of a woman in San Francisco, allegedly by an undocumented immigrant who has been convicted of several felonies and deported five times.
San Francisco, like approximately 200 other cities across the country, is a sanctuary city, a term describing local governments that do not help enforce federal immigration policies. Supporters argue that they give residents freedom from fear of being deported, while critics argue that sanctuary cities allow illegal immigrants with criminal histories to walk free.
“Politely asking for cooperation from sanctuary cities is a fool’s errand. The clear answer to this problem is for DHS to mandate compliance with detainers,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said. Goodlatte is also the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which held the hearing.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said mandating cooperation by local governments is not an effective solution.
“In my judgment, and the judgment of a lot of other border security and immigration enforcement experts, the way to most effectively work with these jurisdictions is a cooperative one,” Johnson testified. “Not by hitting them over the head with federal legislation that will engender a lot more litigation.”
Some Democrats on the committee defended the Department of Homeland Security, including Johnson’s new Priority Enforcement Program. The program sets deportation priorities for undocumented immigrants convicted of specific crimes, most of which are violent crimes.
They cited an Oregon court case, in which a judge ruled that detaining a woman only on behalf Immigration and Customs Enforcement violated her Fourth Amendment rights.
“The federal courts have said that the detainers are a violation and are not enforceable, regardless of what we here believe they are,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who is active on immigration issues, said. “These are local jurisdictions that have made a decision – that is they carry out local police enforcement that is a local issue, and this is they way they want to do it.”
Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, the immigrant charged with killing the woman in San Francisco, was arrested in March for an outstanding warrant but was later released without local officials contacting federal officials, despite having a detainment order from ICE. San Francisco law prohibits holding a person for ICE detainment who has not been convicted of violent crimes.
Reach reporter Jaelynn Grisso at [email protected] or (202) 408-1493. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
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