Pro-sanctuary mayors and the New York Times are appalled by the suggestion there’s any connection between immigration and terror.
Anis Amri (Getty Images)
Donald Trump was asked on Wednesday if the Christmas-market truck massacre in Berlin had caused him to reevaluate his various proposals regarding immigration from terror-spawning regions. His answer sent the liberal media into another nervous breakdown: “I’ve been proven to be right,” Trump responded. “One hundred percent correct.”
And so he has. To the New York Times, however, Trump’s words were front-page news. “Trump Suggests Berlin Attack Affirms His Plan to Bar Muslims,” read the headline (even though Trump had not specifically addressed the temporary ban in his response to the reporter’s question). The Times assumes that its readers will be shocked by any suggested connection between Islamic terror attacks and immigration policy. The Times, for its part, treats the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” like the Ebola virus, inoculating itself from any misperception that it would independently pen such scandalous words by the liberal use of scare quotes. “One area where Mr. Trump and his advisers have been unswerving is their repeated denunciation of ‘radical Islamic terrorism,’” writes the Times incredulously.
Despite the Times’ protestation, the problem of Islamic terrorism in the West is, among other things, an immigration issue, whether an attack has been committed by first-generation immigrants or second. But the Berlin massacre does more than vindicate Trump’s planned reassessment of entry protocols. It also vindicates his intention to eliminate local sanctuary policies. The suspected Berlin attacker was, like many previous Islamic terrorists, a thug first, a terrorist second. Anis Amri had been arrested several times in his home country of Tunisia for various street crimes, including petty theft; he was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison for stealing a car. He committed arson in Italy. He assaulted fellow prisoners while jailed in Italy. He sold drugs in a Berlin park.
Such crimes, if committed by an illegal alien in San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, or the 300 other sanctuary jurisdictions in the U.S., would induce local jail authorities and police chiefs to hold that alien in order to protect him against any federal effort to deport him. Politicians in sanctuary cities work feverishly to bury this core fact: The sanctuary policies they have rushed to defend in the wake of Trump’s election are designed to shield street criminals and thugs from deportation. Such policies forbid jail authorities from honoring a federal request to hold an illegal-alien criminal beyond his release date so that federal agents can start removal proceedings against him.
On Friday, BBC Radio interviewed Seattle mayor Ed Murray about his city’s recently reaffirmed sanctuary policy. Murray ducked any question that would have clarified the fact that it was criminal law-breakers Seattle was shielding. Instead, Murray waxed self-righteous about his “moral obligation” to defeat immigration enforcement, with not a peep of acknowledgment that Seattle’s defiance of federal authority meant that law-abiding Seattle residents would be forced to pay the costs of illegal-alien crime.
To be sure, very few garden-variety illegal-alien criminals in the U.S. commit terrorism. Nevertheless, if there is anything that the data-driven policing revolution that began in New York City in 1994 has taught us, it is that there is a great chain of being in criminal offending. People who commit so-called serious crimes (as if there were crimes that are unserious) routinely break the law on so-called small things: shoplifting, loitering, graffiti, public drinking, or street drug sales. So enforcing the law against the “small things” can net you bigger fish.
The most remarkable hypocrisy in the sanctuary-jurisdiction movement comes on the part of big-city police chiefs who usually embrace the logic of public-order enforcement, otherwise known as broken-windows policing. These law-enforcement officials understand the connection between low-level and high-level offending — except when it comes to illegal aliens. You would think that police chiefs and mayors would seize any opportunity to remove criminals from their cities, especially at federal expense, whether that criminal has “only” stolen a car or sold drugs or may be planning something bigger. And yet, those same chiefs deny that they have any constitutional obligation to obey federal laws meant to keep illegal-alien criminals from escaping justice. A more shameless insult to constitutional order is hard to imagine.
Even if the number of illegal-alien criminals in the U.S. who commit terrorism is small, using immigration laws to prevent even one such attack is patently justified. And even if there were no illegal-alien criminals in the U.S. who committed terrorism, deporting aliens who commit crime is nevertheless a just and sound policy. Communities do not benefit from criminals in their midst. Sanctuary scofflaws ritually claim that honoring federal immigration detainers might discourage illegal-alien victims from reporting crime, but federal immigration authorities are seeking to deport criminals, not their victims.
The apprehension of Anis Amri by Italian police vindicates another challenged law-enforcement practice as well: proactive policing. Two Milanese officers, Cristian Movio and Luca Scata, observed a disheveled man loitering outside a northern Milanese Metro station at 3 a.m. They stopped him to ask some questions and check his identity papers. Amri quickly pulled out a gun and started shooting at them; he was fatally shot in return. Had the Black Lives Matter movement taken hold in Italy, with its specious charge that pedestrian stops are a means of racial oppression, the two officers might well have taken the less politically risky course of walking past Amri rather than acting on their reasonable suspicion that something needed checking out.
There is no reason to protect illegal-alien criminals from deportation. And cities that defy the law should face serious consequences. If Anis Amri had been jailed in San Francisco for stealing a car and had been in the country illegally, the San Francisco sheriff, with the support of the city’s board of supervisors, would have provided him safe passage back to the “community.” President Trump’s response to the wave of Islamic terrorism should include new screening for people coming in. But it should also make sure that people in the country illegally be promptly deported when they go on to commit further crimes. Such a policy is essential to preserving safety and the rule of law.
— Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of The War on Cops.