Donald Trump, immigration and the GOP | Jim Clark |

Donald Trump, immigration and the GOP | Jim Clark

Donald Trump’s recent accusation that illegal aliens from Mexico are primarily criminals, juxtaposed with the unfortunate killing of Kate Steinle by a Mexican illegal and felon as a result of San Francisco’s “sanctuary city” law, virtually assures that the immigration issue will remain on the front burner through the 2016 election.

Despite the inflammatory facts and strong sense of injustice in the Steinle murder, San Francisco’s reaction has been to push back against public sentiment and political demands that its municipal code be amended to prevent a recurrence.

That in turn prompted Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) to author “Kate’s Law” a proposal that would mandate a 5-year federal prison term for any illegal immigrant who is deported and returns to the US.

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly is fueling the publicity fires by demanding that the 2016 presidential contenders commit to supporting Kate’s Law. So far, GOP candidates Ted Cruz, Lindsay Graham, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Ben Carson and (of course) Trump have all expressed support.

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have not decided whether to support the measure. Nothing has been heard from Democratic candidates as yet.

Clearly exposure of citizens and their families to crimes by illegal aliens is a current political hot potato about which nearly everyone has an opinion. But what are the facts? There are 276 sanctuary cities across the United States and although the municipal laws differ somewhat they basically provide that law enforcement within a sanctuary city law’s jurisdiction need not respond to an Immigration & Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) hold when releasing prisoners known to be illegal aliens but apprehended for other law violation(s).

The rationale for such laws is that if illegal immigrants see local police officers as a tool for deportation they will not report crimes or come forward as witnesses even when they are victims. As a result public safety will suffer.

The Washington (DC) Times, citing the Center for Immigration Studies, recently reported that over a period of eight months sanctuary cities ignored federal “holds” and released over 8,000 illegal immigrants who had criminal records or were facing charges.

However, the Libertarian CATO Institute urges that we not change policy in reaction to a single tragic murder. According to a CATO study released July 14 immigrants are actually less crime prone than US citizens.

Citing Census Bureau and American Community Studies, “CATO says that roughly 1.6 percent of immigrant males 18-39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of native-born males (based on data from) the 1980, 1990 and 2000 decennial census.

“In each of those years, the incarceration rates of the native-born were two to five times higher than that of immigrants.”

So who’s right? We don’t fully know yet which is why the issue will linger on through the long upcoming presidential campaign season.

Perhaps the USA Today, not exactly a fomenter of harsh right-wing or left wing invective, came up with the best answer for the present when it editorialized: “There’s a certain logic to the ‘sanctuary’ idea but not when carried to extremes. Sanctuary policies set by cities, counties and states differ from place to place but San Francisco’s violates all common sense. Protecting a hard-working undocumented immigrant charged with a misdemeanor is one thing. Putting a long-term felon and serial illegal entrant on the street is the antithesis of ensuring public safety … Kathryn Steinle’s death ought to be a cause for sober reevaluation of sanctuary policies. Without a cease fire and a working agreement in this war that has pitted local government against federal immigration authorities there will be more innocent casualties.”

Makes sense to me. Candidates, let the rhetoric begin.

Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Nevada and Washoe County GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at

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