Carlos Wolff crashed his car, but he was alive and well. Minutes later, his life would end.
The police report said that Wolff, an 11-year veteran of the FBI, a husband and father of two young children who came to the U.S. with his family from Venezuela as a boy, was sober and driving at a safe speed on Interstate 270 outside of Washington, D.C., on the evening of December 8 last year. It also said he was reaching for his cell phone before he crashed. After an off-duty arson investigator pulled over to assist him, both were killed when another motorist drove into them on the shoulder of the busy highway. Beyond the story of lost lives and children robbed of their father, the details surrounding the third motorist tell what has become an all-too-familiar tale: permissive sanctuary laws that allowed someone to live in this country who quite possibly should not have been here.
The third driver, Roberto Garza Palacios, was found to be neither speeding nor impaired at the time of the accident. Police did, however, question why he didn’t slow down upon seeing the stopped cars and flashing lights on the side of the road. He was eventually cited for driving in a “careless and imprudent manner” and was facing a traffic court trial in July. This week he was arrested at his residence by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and charged with overstaying and violating the terms of his work visa that expired in 2009.
A native of Guatemala, Palacios has a checkered driving record. In 2015 he pleaded guilty to drunken driving and negligent driving in separate incidents. When ICE officials requested that Montgomery County, Md., law enforcement detain Palacios to determine if he should be deported, the request was denied. The reason? The county’s policy enacted in 2014 that it would “no longer comply with ICE detainer request[s] except for those requests that have adequate support for a finding of probable cause under the Fourth Amendment.”
According to the county, this means that no illegal alien can be held without a judicial warrant or probable cause to believe that the detainee has committed a crime. There are two problems with this line of thinking. One, only Article III courts can issue judicial warrants and they do not have the jurisdiction to do so in immigration matters. Two, immigration is a civil, not criminal matter. So what’s the effect of the county’s policy? Zero compliance with ICE detainer requests thereby shutting down immigration enforcement, which is the underlying goal. Nonetheless, the Fourth Amendment requires no such thing as the Fifth Circuit made plain recently in the case of City of El Cenizo v. State of Texas (refuting the judicial warrant and crime requirement and questioning whether the Fourth Amendment even applies to illegal aliens).
While California has been in the spotlight for its sweeping, dangerous and irresponsible state sanctuary laws, other communities like Montgomery County have quietly approved policies that allow foreigners to avoid deportation after committing crimes. In a unanimous vote last year, the Denver City Council approved a similar policy. Among its provisions, city employees are prohibited from collecting information on immigration status, honoring ICE detainer requests, or allowing ICE agents into jails without a warrant.
While leaders of these communities may congratulate themselves for their perceived superior compassion and enlightenment, the reality is that they are creating a more dangerous and less prosperous home for their constituents. In the Palacios case, the pro-sanctuary position would be that he broke no laws the night of Wolff’s death. That ignores the fact that, absent Montgomery County’s sanctuary policy, he might not have been on the road or even in the country that night. There are countless other cases where innocent lives have been snuffed out as a result of sanctuary laws and the dire, unintended consequences that come with them.
For these and other reasons, elected leaders who advocate for and enact sanctuary laws must be held accountable. That’s why my organization, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, filed suit against Gary, Ind., last year when it defied a state law banning sanctuary policies. It’s why just this week we sued the city of East Chicago, Ind., for violating the same law. We also filed an amicus brief in support of the Justice Department’s lawsuit against California and its sanctuary laws, a case that has prompted numerous California communities to join us in opposition to sanctuary policies. There is clearly a growing, organic movement across the country to stand up against policies that prioritize illegal aliens over American citizens.
Pro-sanctuary laws are not compassionate. They make our communities less safe and drain our social welfare programs. They put American citizens—people of all races, religions and ethnicities—below those who have violated our immigration laws and cut in line ahead of immigrants who respect our laws. Perhaps most overlooked is the fact that sanctuary laws are cruel to illegal aliens themselves, condemning them to lives spent in hiding, being exploited for low wages and in grinding poverty. The only party that clearly benefits from sanctuary laws are the self-serving politicians who support them, as such laws create a permanent underclass in need of a champion.
As opposition to sanctuary policies grows, perhaps more people like Carlos Wolff will go home to their families and not be part of a grim statistic. That’s where compassion is needed most.
Dale L. Wilcox is executive director and general counsel at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.
Also published at: Dale L. Wilcox, As pro-sanctuary policies spread, the body count rises, The Hill, May 10, 2018