Note: This article originally appeared in The Washington Times as an op-ed. It is reprinted in the Times-Advocate with the permission of Mayor Sam Abed.
As an immigrant to the United States, I am proud to call myself an American. I felt strongly about integrating into the community and giving back to the place I call home. Unfortunately, open border champions have blurred the line between legal and illegal immigrants and have convinced many Americans that the rule of law no longer applies to our borders.
I left my native Lebanon 40 years ago because the lack of border security led to constant incursions by dangerous militants and others who robbed me and my neighbors of any sense of safety or security. Hoping to escape the anarchy that had engulfed my world, I moved nearly 7,000 miles to my current home in Escondido, California, in northern San Diego County. Moving to America, I hoped to find a community where I, and now my family, could prosper while feeling safe and secure.
Four decades later, I find myself as mayor of Escondido. Now, ironically, reminders of the chaos that drove me from my native homeland all those years ago have landed on my doorstep. The cause of this anarchy and loss of overall sense of public safety is due solely to the passage of SB 54, the law that now shields dangerous criminal aliens from being removed from my state–and increasingly–this nation.
The U.S. Constitution makes the defense of our nation’s borders the domain of the federal government. Further, it says, “The Laws of the United States …Shall be the Supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby,…” The State of California’s willful defiance of the Constitution is nothing short of anarchy.
In practical terms, SB 54 forbids the sharing of information or offering any level of cooperation between state and local law enforcement officials and federal immigration agents. For communities that are close to the U.S.- Mexico border, like Escondido, this means that the cooperative programs with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) which for years have successfully targeted dangerous criminal aliens and removed them from our city and our nation are now illegal by state law.
These cooperative relationships greatly improved the public safety of Escondido by allowing our local police to become force multipliers with ICE. This partnership enjoys the support of a vast majority of Escondido’s residents, many of whom are immigrants themselves. For example, prior to the enactment of SB 54 in 2017, cooperative efforts between Escondido’s local police and ICE resulted in the removal of 2,700 criminal aliens, or 28 per month. Their departure made our town a safer place to live and prevented our citizens and legal residents from falling victim to dangerous criminal aliens.
Now, all of that has changed. SB 54 now prevents us from having any kind of cooperative relationship with ICE. It essentially forces us to treat federal immigration enforcement officers like unwanted trespassers, while criminal aliens are embraced as heroes. ICE, which has now been officially barred from occupying an office space in Escondido, is literally on its own. They are charged with protecting our nation from dangerous illegal immigrants, but are treated more like unwelcome visitors.
And, how is this open-border mentality justified? Our state legislators in Sacramento are clearly more concerned with making a political statement against President Trump than they are with the safety of those living in California and the rest of the U.S. They have become blinded by emotion and cannot force themselves to see the chaos that they have created on the streets of California’s cities.
Unfortunately, this scenario is not only playing out in California, but across our great nation. Today, more than 564 communities and jurisdictions are considered sanctuary communities. According to the Washington Times, that means roughly half of this nation’s population lives in a sanctuary community where instead of being removed, criminal aliens are now being released back onto the streets.
Many of these criminal aliens go on to recommit crimes against innocent Americans. Thomas Homan, Acting Director of ICE, noted that 10,000 of the criminal aliens that had been released due to so called “sanctuary” policies have already re-offended, committing additional crimes against innocent Americans. These crimes were all completely preventable and the direct consequence of placing the goal of open borders before the compelling safety interests of America’s citizens and legal residents.
The beginnings of the conditions that existed in the Lebanon that I left many decades ago are now rearing their ugly heads right here in America. Foreign criminals are preying on our communities and victimizing the innocent with impunity. Illegal, immigrant-driven crime is increasingly unchallenged, and a sense of anarchy and loss of control of our destiny permeates our state. As a result, many hard-working, tax-paying Americans are actually fleeing California for other states.
The safety of my city and my children’s future is at risk, and that’s why I joined other mayors from across California in standing up to this state’s absurd sanctuary policies. However, we cannot succeed alone – we also need the federal government to crack down on sanctuary jurisdictions. Border-security truly is national-security, and until we return to full cooperation between state, local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement officials, we’ll continue to see the loss of our personal safety and degradation of our beloved communities.
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Sam Abed is the Mayor of Escondido, California.