- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Los Angeles County sheriff’s new policy banning his department from turning over any illegal immigrant criminals to ICE, no matter how serious the crimes, will result in innocent people — often migrants themselves — being killed or raped, Homeland Security’s No. 2 official said.

Ken Cuccinelli, serving as deputy secretary, wrote a withering letter laying out his concerns about the policy, announced Aug. 18, but he said he doesn’t have much hope of persuading Sheriff Alex Villanueva by logic. Instead, he figures to “shame” the sheriff into reversing course.

“It is a no-brainer to say putting 180 murderers, 750 rapists and 1,400 weapons offenders back on the streets when they could have otherwise been removed from the country will lead to other murders, rapes and weapons offenses in that community,” Mr. Cuccinelli told The Washington Times in an exclusive interview.

He added: “People in Los Angeles will die and be raped because of this sheriff’s actions, and those are victims that never had to be victims.”

Los Angeles isn’t the most aggressive sanctuary for unauthorized migrants in the country, but it is perhaps the most significant. Given the county’s size, demographics and proximity to the border, it has for years been by far the top source of illegal immigrants with criminal records for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In 2019, ICE flagged more than 11,000 illegal immigrants in sheriff’s office custody. They accounted for 180 homicide charges, 750 sex crimes and 1,400 weapons offenses.

“Serious crimes with real victims,” Mr. Cuccinelli wrote in his letter to the sheriff.

The Times reached out to the sheriff’s office, and a spokesperson asked for a copy of the letter.

The Times provided it Friday. After two days of prodding, Deputy Shawn Du Busky replied Sunday by telling The Times to refer to the sheriff’s original announcement.

Sanctuary jurisdictions — which resist or in some cases outright refuse cooperation with ICE, and sometimes with Customs and Border Protection — have increased dramatically under President Trump as counties, cities and some states use it as a way of showing resistance.

California has a statewide sanctuary law that limits the sorts of migrants whom police can report to ICE, but it includes exceptions for significant crimes. Sheriff Villanueva’s policy goes further than that.

In his Aug. 18 statement announcing the policy, Sheriff Villanueva said his county is home to 1 million illegal immigrants, and he suggested that they are “afraid to report crime, out of fear of deportation and having their families torn apart.”

“I will not allow an entire segment of the population to be afraid to report crimes to law enforcement and be forced, again, back into the shadows,” he said.

Studies of crime reporting, ICE activity and sanctuary jurisdictions are inconclusive.

In the city of Los Angeles, after Mr. Trump took office in 2017, police leaders said they recorded a significant drop in Hispanic reporting of some personal crimes such as domestic violence, which they attributed to fear of being snared by ICE.

But a Washington Times review of the data showed that the drop quickly dissipated. After California’s sanctuary law was enacted in 2018, there was no relative increase in crime reporting by Hispanics, despite a presumably lower fear.

Sheriff Villanueva said he would respect a judicial warrant if ICE obtains one and turn over the illegal immigrant.

ICE says that is an intentional misstatement of the way Congress set up the immigration system. No such warrant exists for immigration violations.

Mr. Cuccinelli said there is no area of law enforcement other than immigration where local authorities refuse to cooperate with other local, state or federal law enforcement agencies.

“What we are seeing is the pollution of law enforcement by politicization,” he said.

Mr. Cuccinelli said it is particularly striking that sanctuary jurisdictions, often run by Democrats who also want to impose restrictions on firearms possession, are actively shielding illegal immigrants with gun charges.

He said Sheriff Villanueva knows ICE doesn’t target crime victims and in fact will work to protect them in situations where local authorities are trying to make cases.

But if ICE doesn’t have access to criminals in the county’s jails, it will go looking for them in neighborhoods, he said. The chance of a violent encounter is far higher when a suspect is at large than in a secure jail setting, he said, and ICE officers can arrest other illegal immigrants they find in the community.

Mr. Cuccinelli said the sheriff is aware of that.

“The only convincing that I’m trying to do here is by shame, is by spelling out ‘You say you want to do A, but you do it in a way that hurts A,’” he said. “I’m under no illusions that I can just enlighten him to the truth and he’ll change his decisions. He’s not making a decision that is sensitive to the truth.”

Mr. Cuccinelli said Sheriff Villanueva has complained about releasing criminals during the COVID-19 pandemic because it puts dangerous people on the streets, where they may commit further crimes.

Mr. Cuccinelli pointed out that it’s exactly the same threat posed by the criminals whom ICE wants to deport yet whom Los Angeles is actively shielding.

“This is pure hypocrisy that put real lives in danger,” he wrote.

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