Dozens of cities and seven states have adopted so-called “sanctuary” policies that shield illegal immigrants from possible deportation. Sometimes there are tragic results. But we are also seeing uprisings by communities that claim to welcome immigrants—just not illegal immigrants who have committed crimes. Today’s cover story begins in Santa Clarita, California about 35 miles outside of LApopulation about 220-thousand.
Sharyl: Santa Clarita, California is known as “Hollywood’s backlot,” where sprawling ranch land provides a backdrop for films and TV shows—like West World. This year, Santa Clarita became known for something else. It’s the first city in Los Angeles County to formally oppose California’s “sanctuary state” law.
Sharyl: I think the best place to start might be with the May eighth meeting.
Bob Kellar: Not only was this room full with literally people standing in the aisles and in the back of the room, they were out in the atrium.
Bob Kellar is on Santa Clarita’s city council.
Bob Kellar: We had somewhere in excess of 300 people. We had six hours solid on this issue alone, of people coming before us and wanting to be heard and on their feelings of this, this matter.
Speaker 1: How does this agenda item create a Santa Clarita that future generations will love?
Speaker 2: You can call me a racist all you want, I don't care.
Speaker 3: To me, undocumented immigrants are the most American among us
Sharyl: There were passionate voices on both sides...But a clear majority emerged.
Speaker 4: I beg the council to vote to take a hard stand, to join the many other cities who have said enough is enough.
Speaker 5: And that you oppose the sanctuary city law.
Sharyl: They don't want Santa Clarita to be a sanctuary city.
Bob Kellar: Absolutely not. I know that this community is still largely a conservative area and you know what we'd done pretty darn good with it. The city has flourished in so many ways. But having said that, I don't travel up in San Francisco or some of the other areas. I dare say there were a lot of people up there that would not share my thoughts on this issue.
For Kellar— a former Los Angeles police officer— crime is the big concern. And the number of illegal immigrants committing serious crimes in the U.S. is staggering in terms of scope and cost. According to the newest figures from the Government Accountability Office: one in five federal prison inmates are criminal aliens. The vast majority of them—91%— are from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia and Dominican Republic. A Full Measure analysis of government figures finds: Over six years, more than 730-thousand criminal aliens were in U.S. prisons or local jails. They accounted for 4.9 million arrests for 7.5 million offenses: More than a million drug crimes. More than 663-thousand assaults, sex offenses and kidnappings. 33-thousand homicides. And 1,500 terrorism related crimes.In terms of cost—federal taxpayers shelled out more than $15 billion dollars— or $2.5 billion a year— to keep criminal aliens behind bars.
With so much at stake, the battle has turned epic.
President Trump: It’s so basic. It’s called law and order and safety and we’re gonna have it in our country.
In January, the Trump administration put 23 sanctuary cities and states on notice that they risk losing some federal funds. In March, the Justice Department sued California. Some sanctuary cities are digging in. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney was seen dancing and singing last June after a favorable court ruling.
Sharyl: Do you see any potential downside for California being a sanctuary state?
Pedro Rios: I don't think there are, really.
Pedro Rios heads an immigrant rights group in San Diego under the Quaker Christian organization, the American Friends Service Committee.
Sharyl: What’s your view of what seems to be a movement at least amongst some— probably the more conservative cities or towns— the movement to say “We are not on board with a sanctuary city idea or sanctuary state?
Pedro Rios: You know, I think it's a, it's not a very strong movement. I have witnessed some people who go from city council to city council trying to convince elected officials that they should stand against the state of California. But state of California officials have spoken that the state should then be a beacon for other states to follow how it treats its immigrant communities.
Sharyl: illegal immigrant communities. I know you don't maybe don't want to say illegal, but you're not just talking about legal immigrants.
Pedro Rios: I think at this point we've moved away from that distinction of who has status and who doesn’t. And it's particularly focused on the color of someone's skin, and that's something that we want to rebut as much as we can.
Sharyl: Don't some people have a right to be worried— even if they do care about the people who come here and are going to be good people and contribute— they are concerned about this possibility of additional crime.
Pedro Rios: Certainly if people have committed crimes, there is a justice system that should be upheld. At the same time I think it's important to recognize that often times ICE doesn't necessarily— isn't necessarily truthful about the numbers it produces.
If Rios thinks ICE—Immigration and Customs Enforcement— is padding the crime numbers Don Rosenberg does not.
Don Rosenburg: Especially in San Francisco, they become a protected class. Whatever they do, they get away with.
In 2016, Rosenberg told Full Measure that his son Drew was on his way home from law school when he was run over and killed by an illegal immigrant. Robert Galo had been caught five months earlier driving the wrong way down a street with no license or insurance. He kept driving, unlicensed, until the day he killed Drew. Rosenberg spoke at the May 8 meeting in Santa Clarita.
Don Rosenburg: We've heard a lot tonight about tearing families apart. What we never hear from those people is any acknowledgement whatsoever about the families that are torn apart or really destroyed by the presence of illegal immigrants in California and the United States. I know all too well the damage caused by sanctuary policy as my son was killed in San Francisco by an illegal alien protected by that city's sanctuary policies. So for the person that said sanctuary policies don’t hurt anybody, I’m certainly evidence- and my son, evidence that you’re wrong.
When time came —past one in the morning - it wasn’t even close. Santa Clarita’s city council voted five nothing to oppose California’s sanctuary state law. The vote was hard fought but symbolic. Santa Clarita gets its police services from the LA police department. And LA is a sanctuary city.
Sharyl: To those who say people who oppose the idea of illegal immigrants staying here, “You’re anti immigrant” or “You're, in some cases, racist,” What is your answer to that?
Bob Kellar: I have sponsored people to immigrate into this country in my life and I absolutely believe in, in lawful proper go through the process, integrate into our country. I do not believe in just opening up borders and have people come into this country and take over. It’s been through an appreciation for the laws of recognition of what took place to to create this great country that is the envy of the world.
To Kellar, federal laws are being violated by sanctuary states and local governments. The way Rios sees it, fixing things is the job of Congress.
Pedro Rios: Unfortunately, I think there's little hope right now for Congress to get their act together and to pass real significant immigration policies that will benefit the people that need them. Congress is ultimately more divided than what it's ever been.
At least 16 local councils in California have voted to join the Trump administration’s lawsuit or fight the state's policies in some way.