@THE GUSS REPORT-The politicians at LA City Hall and other local electeds last week got a taste of their own “you can’t beat City Hall” medicine as federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents descended into local communities to arrest undocumented immigrants with criminal histories, causing an unfortunate – and 100% predictable and preventable – consequence: undocumented immigrants without criminal histories were scooped up from their beds, the breakfast table and workplaces, too.
That collateral damage is courtesy of myopic local politicians focused more on trending social media topics rather than on pragmatic leadership.
(For the purpose of this article, let’s differentiate between undocumented immigrants with notable criminal activity such as prior deportations, DUI, identity theft, domestic violence and other blatantly dangerous misconduct, and undocumented immigrants whose only illegal activity is their presence or employment in the U.S. That is a topic for another day.)
The blame for last week’s ICE raids can be broadly placed on the narrow shoulders of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the LA City Council and LA County Supervisors, California Governor Jerry Brown, and other legislators across the state, their counterparts in other states and each of their predecessors.
For 16 months, these politicians relentlessly Tweeted about sanctuary and resistance because their primary goal is advancing their political careers rather than on protecting us from bad guys. It has been anti-Trump, all-day, regardless of issue, even those that are useful in keeping communities safe. In doing this, they relinquished their responsibility to do no harm to good people.
All along, what ICE (a non-political government agency) has needed to do is this: remove criminal aliens from the country by picking them up directly from local jails and prisons upon their release. This requires local law enforcement to notify the feds that they have in custody inmates they seek, and to honor the federal holds of those inmates, such as Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, the man who eventually killed Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier in July 2015. Such cooperation, which has been in place for decades, would make taking custody of the bad guys easier and safer for ICE, and better for all of us, because it is done in the armed, enclosed safety of a lock-up.
But instead of continuing this long-standing process, Garcetti, Brown and their brethren focused on the mantras (which may be fine in other contexts) of resist and sanctuary, they will not honor federal inmate holds, about which the half-grinning Garcetti vacillated and waffled even more than one normally expects.
What did LA and other sanctuary communities expect to happen? That ICE would say, oh well, no cooperation in LA or California. Let’s go for lower-hanging fruit elsewhere! In a battle with the federal government, local elected officials are going to lose almost every time, as federal law – and federal money – is always mightier.
The consequence should easily have been foreseen by Garcetti, Brown and company, because virtually everyone else saw it coming a mile away, too.
Instead of ICE going to our local lock-ups last week, they went to workplaces to audit employers’ payroll records. But as a result, they also wound up arresting hundreds of people, including undocumented immigrants without criminal records (aside from their illegal presence in the U.S.). Good people who woke up in the morning planning to do nothing other than work hard and go home to their families wound up in federal custody because their workplace was visited by federal agents who ironically were not seeking them at all.
With days like these, what undocumented immigrants in their right mind would ever sign up for DACA protection, student loans or other social services?
This happened only because Garcetti, Brown and company couldn’t foresee the benefit of coughing up the bad guys, thus protecting our neighborhoods, and protecting the good guys who now find themselves in the spiral of an otherwise avoidable and forced deportation process.
Picture the empty seat at the dinner table of those who were arrested, and children worrying about how dad (or mom) is doing in custody. Who is going to help them legally, or provide for us, they might ask. How many immigrant children went to sleep those nights last week wondering where do we turn when we wake up tomorrow?
But the consequence of Garcetti’s and Brown’s failure goes far beyond that.
By forcing ICE into communities, rather than cooperating with them on inmate custody, other federal agencies will now strike fear into businesses that (to date) employed hardworking, law-abiding undocumented immigrants. Those businesses, many of which kept poor work eligibility records, are themselves now under scrutiny. And that may be the second biggest problem for undocumented immigrants: the inability to work now and in the future.
Ironically, Garcetti and Brown played right into the hands of President Donald Trump, who, as a candidate, promised all along to make things so onerous for people who are not eligible to work in the United States that they self-deport.
Many Californians didn’t count on its politicians aiding and abetting the pursuit of self-deportation, but that’s exactly what they did.
Politicians are so eager for headlines and social media attention (ever notice how much time each day South Bay Congressman Ted Lieu spends on Twitter?) that they seem to make decisions more on trending topics than pragmatic, purposeful ways to get rid of local criminal miscreants.
If the Senate and House cannot reach an agreement on DACA that Trump will sign, the Supreme Court in June will likely take up the issue of whether the DACA program will end. With the mid-term elections now nine months away, a Democrat takeover of either house of Congress is no sure thing. And if it doesn’t, these ICE raids will not only likely continue, but increase, because politicians refuse to take the logical path they were hired to do.
(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. Verifiable tips and story ideas can be sent to him at TheGussReport@gmail.com. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.