(7/2016) The public debate regarding immigration has resulted in a firestorm of controversy in recent months, and the Presidential campaign has only fanned the flames of this intense discussion. However, regardless of any individual’s views on immigration issues, we should all be able to agree on one basic principle – when an illegal immigrant commits a violent crime, they
shouldn’t be released back into the same communities they victimized.
Unfortunately, that scene plays out all too frequently in Pennsylvania communities that refuse to comply with detention and deportation requests from the federal government. Although U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials may request that an individual who is arrested be detained for deportation, a number of so-called "sanctuary cities" ignore these requests
and instead put these dangerous criminals back on our streets.
A study by the Center for Immigration Studies found that sanctuary cities resulted in the release of more than 8,000 illegal immigrant offenders over an eight-month period, with 1,900 of those released offenders being arrested for another crime within that same time frame.
Worse yet, the majority of those released had serious prior criminal records. It makes no sense that these municipalities would openly defy federal authorities on an issue of public safety in order to protect criminals who have no legal right to be in this country in the first place.
I’ve introduced a bill that would address this problem by prohibiting governing bodies from adopting rules or ordinances that contradict federal immigration policy. Municipalities that do not enforce federal immigration policy would not be eligible for state grants for law enforcement purposes and could be sued for negligence for releasing an individual with a detainer who
subsequently commits another crime.
It is my hope that this bill could help prevent the kind of tragedies we’ve seen in other parts of the country in which innocent citizens have been victimized by criminals who clearly should have been returned to their country of origin.
Even in the throes of a divisive election year, this shouldn’t be a partisan issue; in fact, it’s one issue on which Presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump can actually agree. Prioritizing the protection of criminals at the expense of public safety is a policy that can only create negative consequences.
Lawmakers at every level of government share a common goal of protecting citizens from the threats posed by criminals who have come to our country with the intent to harm its citizens. I am hopeful that my colleagues in the General Assembly and Governor Wolf can set aside politics and unite around this shared priority.
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