- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2017

Homeland Security officials on Monday released their first edition of President Trump’s name-and-shame list of sanctuary cities, singling out 118 jurisdictions that thwart federal immigration agents and put one murder suspect and a convicted arsonist back on the streets this year.

All told, at least 200 illegal immigrants whom agents sought to deport were instead released by prisons and jails from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3 — the first week of data under Mr. Trump’s shaming policy.

Four metropolitan-area jurisdictions — the District of Columbia, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland and Arlington in Virginia — are on the list as sanctuaries, putting them in danger of losing federal money if they don’t revise their policies.

Nationally, Travis County in Texas was the worst offender. The city and state jails there released 142 illegal immigrants that week, according to the data from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“It is not acceptable for jurisdictions to refuse to cooperate with federal law enforcement by releasing criminal aliens back into our communities when our law required them to be deported,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said.

He vowed to have his prosecutors pursue the criminal aliens and to “hold accountable” the cities and counties that are protecting them.

Sanctuary cities became front-page news after the death in 2015 of Kate Steinle, who was shot while walking along the waterfront in San Francisco with her father. The man standing trial for her slaying is an illegal immigrant who had been deported repeatedly but who was living in San Francisco because of its sanctuary policy.

Mr. Trump seized on that tragedy and promised to crack down on sanctuaries. During his first week in office, he signed an executive order demanding that the Department of Homeland Security produce a regular list of communities that are thwarting agents and detail the charges or convictions against the illegal immigrants released.

According to the list, Los Angeles refused to turn over a convicted arsonist from Mexico and Philadelphia balked at cooperating on a Jamaican man accused of murder.

Perhaps hundreds of other illegal immigrants don’t even show up in the records because jurisdictions such as Philadelphia and Chicago’s Cook County in Illinois refuse to talk to ICE at all, meaning agents sometimes don’t know when wanted people are detained.

The numbers in the report already show a major change from the Obama administration, which required illegal immigrants to have major convictions on their records to be targets for deportation. Under Mr. Trump, those charged with crimes — but not yet convicted — are targeted, and the bar for criminal behavior earning deportation is lower.

Domestic violence, drunken driving, drug offenses and sexual or aggravated assaults dominated the list. There were some striking cases as well, including the Riverside Regional Jail in Hopewell City, Virginia, which released a convicted rapist, and three men — two in Texas and one in Oregon — convicted of indecent exposure.

In Maryland, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County each released men from El Salvador charged with assault. Both counties are on ICE’s sanctuary city list.

In Virginia, Arlington County is deemed a sanctuary, as is Chesterfield County, near Richmond.

The District of Columbia is also on the list by dint of its 2012 policy limiting cooperation only to cases in which ICE promises to pay the costs of holding the illegal immigrant and in which the person was convicted of a violent or dangerous crime.

Susana Castillo, a spokeswoman for D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, said the city embraces the sanctuary title and has no plans to change the policy.

Neither Prince George’s nor Montgomery County provided responses to The Washington Times. Arlington, meanwhile, said its policy is dictated by its understanding of the law, not by a desire to thwart federal agents.

“While Arlington County cannot hold any person past their release date without a judicial warrant, ICE is notified in advance of the person’s release so that they can be transferred into federal custody,” Assistant County Manager Bryna Helfer said. “Arlington’s policies make certain that ICE is able to fulfill their obligations while at the same time making sure the county is also following the law.”

Travis County in Texas came under scrutiny for what one observer said looked like a mass jailbreak — 142 immigrants released onto the streets rather than turned over to ICE.

“Today’s report from DHS is deeply disturbing and highlights the urgent need for a statewide sanctuary city ban in Texas,” said Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican.

The Travis County Sheriff’s Office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

ICE issues what it calls a detainer to local jurisdictions. Sometimes the detainer is a request that someone be held for pickup, and other times it’s a request that ICE be notified when someone is to be released so agents can be on hand to take custody.

The 118 jurisdictions identified by ICE as sanctuaries is far fewer than some other public accounts. The Ohio Jobs and Justice Political Action Committee, which has maintained a count for more than a decade, said it figures there are nearly 500 sanctuary jurisdictions.

The Center for Immigration Studies has obtained ICE documents in the past that detail more than 200 cities and counties covered by sanctuary policies.

Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at the center, said part of the difference is that states such as California have policies that apply to every jurisdiction — though not every county is listed in the report.

Overall, ICE issued more than 3,000 detainer requests from Jan. 28 through Feb. 3. Ms. Vaughan said that was nearly double the average number of detainers per week issued by the Obama administration last year, but it’s still shy of the more than 6,000 detainers issued in 2011, when the administration was trying to boost its numbers.

“That’s pretty good progress for the second week of the administration,” she said.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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