MS-13 and Sanctuary Cities: How Immigration Has Entered the 2017 Governor's Race
MS-13 is a gang that originated in Los Angeles and primarily consists of immigrants, many in the country illegally, from El Salvador and, to a lesser extent, Honduras and Guatemala. The fact that so many of the gang's members are illegal aliens and the they have been tied to so many gruesome crimes in the DC metro area has turned what used to be an obscure street gang into what Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Ed Gillespie hopes will be a major issue in this year's campaign. Last month, the Ed Gillespie campaign released a campaign ad trying to link the violent MS-13 gang to Democrat Candidate Ralph Northam's support for so-called sanctuary city policies. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1zyZ_amkrY A sanctuary city is a jurisdiction that refuses to cooperate with federal immigration investigations. These towns and cities argue that they cannot be forced to help the Federal government arrest or hold immigration violators because the crimes are considered civil, not criminal. If a sanctuary city ends up arresting someone suspected of being in the country illegally, they argue that it would be unconstitutional for them to detain a suspect for any longed than their local charges would allow. Additionally, proponents believe that these policies also help law enforcement foster good relationships with immigrant communities since the prospect of deportation is taken off the table. Opponents 0f these policies argue that sanctuary cities put the community in danger by releasing potentially dangerous criminals in order to make a political statement against the Federal government's immigration policies. They argue that when a local or state police force arrest someone who is in the United States illegally, that department should hand the suspect over to federal immigration agents or, at the very least, detain them for an additional day to give agents enough time to take them into custody. The Gillespie ad came just weeks before a local, high profile MS-13 case came to a close. On Tuesday, October 17, Cindy Blanco Hernandez, Aldair J. Miranda Carcamo, and Emerson Fugon Lopez -- all between the ages of 17 and 19 -- pled guilty to participating in the gangland murder of a teenage Virginia girl. The three have agreed to testify against three other MS-13 gang members who actually perpetrated the killing. This high-profile killing, in addition to a number of other DC-area murders, has forced MS-13 into the Virginia lexicon. The Federal government has admitted that it cannot possibly estimate just how much illegal immigration affects criminal gangs like MS-13. However, Federal officials who testified before the Senate this past summer revealed in their testimony that in just a small snapshot of the 138 unaccompanied child migrants being held in Department of Health and Human Services dormitories at the time, 39 of them (roughly 28 percent) had known gang ties. In June of 2017, a related case shined a light on just how complicated the issue can be. U.S. District Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon ordered an illegal immigrant teenager to be released from Federal custody. The Judge determined that the Federal government had held the Honduran teen for far too long after he was apprehended illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. His detention was not only a violation of his right to due process, but also a violation of his family's right to unity. The Federal government's lawyers painted a different picture. Not only was the teen a confessed member of MS-13 and a known narcotics dealer, but he had actually been present and witnessed gang killings abroad. This case illustrates the difficulty of navigating current law and Supreme Court precedent. If localities detain an illegal immigrant longer than local charges permit, they are violating the suspect's right to due process. But if those same local and state police forces release suspects without making a bona fide effort to transfer him or her to Federal detention, they risk releasing a violent criminal back into society.