Sheriffs from around the country are dismissing Democratic claims that sanctuary cities help give illegal immigrants the confidence to report local crimes to police, without fear of being deported.
Democrats have put forward that argument for the last several months in the face of Republican efforts to block cities from creating safe zones for illegal immigrants. But sheriffs reached by the Washington Examiner say they're not aware that this kind of cooperation really exists between law enforcement and illegal immigrants, or that cops in sanctuary cities get more assistance from illegal immigrants.
Many of the sheriffs who are skeptical don't work in sanctuary cities. But National Sheriffs' Association executive director Jonathan Thompson, who represents a wide geographical range of law enforcement officers, said he has never seen any statistics indicating that illegal immigrants are a significant source of information for police.
"I've not even seen anecdotal evidence," Thompson told the Washington Examiner. "The sad thing is that [the Democratic claim] suggests that people here are aware of criminal activity and are not reporting it. We have to give them specific dispensation so that they're reporting crimes? ... I find the irony thicker than anything I can cut with a knife, that somebody here illegally is going to report a crime."
Others who don't work in sanctuary cities have similar doubts that guaranteed protection for illegal immigrants would help those immigrants reach out to police with information about crimes.
Sheriff Chuck Jenkins of Frederick County, Md., who was called last April to testify in a House of Representatives hearing on the effectiveness of immigration policies, said he's heard the Democratic argument many times over the years. Jenkins, in his 10th year as sheriff in Maryland's largest county, said he doesn't buy it because his experiences on the job point to a different reality.
"I believe the illegal alien community is smart enough to know that there are protections in place that if they are victims, not to put them into removal custody," Jenkins said. "They can request a U-visa — basically gives them asylum from any deportation or removal."
Jenkins added that most jurisdictions do not actively try to identify the immigration status of someone who comes forward, "so the whole argument doesn't really make sense."
Sam Page has been sheriff in Rockingham County, N.C., for nearly two decades and has not seen illegal immigrants with tips for solving local crimes come forward to help. He also said it makes no sense for politicians to choose which laws to enforce, and which can be ignored.
"Some people in government at those levels want to be able to pick and choose what laws they enforce," said Page. "If there are laws on the books, then we enforce the laws. And the legislature and Congress, they enact legislation. If they don't like the laws, then they need to change the laws, but you don't pick and choose which laws you enforce."
About 500 miles northeast, in a Pennsylvania county that borders upstate New York, Bradford County Sheriff Clinton Walters said he has not observed anything that validates lawmakers' and pundits' claims, and doesn't see why someone here illegally would come forward.
"They're here illegally and they're doing whatever, whether it's the drug business or work or whatever brought them here. I don't think they're trying to be Good Samaritans and report crimes," Walters said.
Page said a majority of illegal immigrants come from countries where police cannot always be trusted, which stays with them when they move to the U.S.
"Some people won't report, but I think a lot of that's driven by the culture where they come from, they don't trust them [police]," Page said. He added that U.S. has nearly a million law enforcement officers "that do it right every day," assisting all communities in the same manner.
Jenkins said another reason some may not come forward to report crimes is because they are intimidated by the violent criminals and "thugs" in their communities. The Maryland sheriff said in his experience as a former criminal investigator who worked a number of high-profile cases in the 1990s, he regularly saw the potential for payback as a factor in why people did not work with police after a crime was committed.
Due to the lack of statistical information of who reports crimes, the Democratic messaging continues.
"It's a whisper campaign. You tell a lie once it goes around the world in 20 seconds," Thompson said. "I think it makes a nice soundbite. It's nice for some in law enforcement who want to believe that all criminal aliens want to support local law enforcement. That may be true, but I don't know of any statistics ... that suggest that this is a wealth or reserve ocean of confidential informants."