Houston mayor Bill White bristles at the labeling of his city as ‘Sanctuary City’ – one that does not enforce federal immigration law at the local level. In 2006 the mayor said, ‘’‘Houston is not a sanctuary city. The biggest concern on something like this is somebody trying to confuse the voters.’ Nevertheless, since 1992 the Houston Police have followed a directive forbidding them from determining the immigration status of those they question or arrest. Even the Congressional Research Service lists the city formally as a ‘sanctuary city’ in its report, ‘CRS Report for Congress, Enforcing Immigration Law: The Role of State and Local Law Enforcement.’
For a young family of three in Houston, it’s an issue of semantics that no longer matters. On August 14, 2007 Juan Felix Salinas, 42, from Nuevo Leon, Mexico, was charged with three counts of intoxication manslaughter in the deaths of Tenisha Williams, 26; her husband, S.J. Williams; and her son, Xavier Brown, 2. According to Houston Police, Salinas was speeding on Interstate 10 before he slammed into the back of the Williams’s vehicle. It burst into flame as bystanders tried unsuccessfully to free the trapped family. Salina’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit.
This isn’t the first time Houston has had trouble with its controversial policy. In January 2003 an illegal immigrant driving a trash truck ran over a six year old boy. He got out of the truck, pulled the boy out from under it, and then drove away. He later fled to Mexico where he remains at large. The year before Walter Alexander Sorto, an illegal from El Salvador abducted, raped and murdered two Houston women. Sorto had been picked up by police numerous times for traffic violations, and was on probation for robbery at the time of the murders. In October 2006 illegal immigrant Juan Quintero allegedly shot and killed Houston police officer Rodney Johnson.
While it is true that illegal immigrants are responsible for a lower proportion of murders than the general population, this fact obscures the even greater truth: all of these crimes were completely preventable had federal law been abided to at the local level as is mandated by the US Constitution. Had federal immigration authorities been alerted after Salinas’s first brush with the law, the Williams’s would still be alive. Had Sorto been deported or at the very least barred from probation due to the greater likelihood that his immigration status made him a flight risk, Maria Moreno Rangel and Roxana Aracelie Capulin would still be alive.
The names of the victims of these men belie yet another truth: this is not a racial issue but a legal one. The Williams’s were African-American, as was Officer Rodney Johnson and the three college students executed and a fourth left to die in a Newark schoolyard by Jose Carranza on August 4th. All of Sorto’s victims were Hispanic as was the six year old run over by a garbage truck.
Civic leaders have consciously adopted policies that extend protection to non-citizens in direct conflict with state and federal law. They have done this to curry favor with interest groups and business organizations that rely upon a flow of illegal immigrants for support and as a pool of cheap labor.
According to the Ohio Jobs Justice PAC (OJJPAC) which tracks them, there are currently 125 cities having sanctuary policies from Anchorage Alaska to Miami Florida. It is time that these leaders of these cities are held accountable for these policies. While the federal and state governments should do everything necessary to force these cities to abide by state and federal laws as mandated by the Constitution, it is ultimately left to the citizens of these cities to hold their leaders accountable for their decisions.
After all they are the ones who are paying for these naive and misguided policies with their lives.
Scott Kirwin is a writer living in Delaware.