Biden ICE Director Bucks White House, Calls Sanctuary Cities 'Inherently Unsafe'

sanctuary cities
Protester holds a sign during an anti-Trump and anti-Gimenez rally in downtown Miami (AP)
February 9, 2024

The head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says sanctuary cities are "inherently unsafe." That puts him at odds with the White House, which has repeatedly defended Democrat-controlled cities that harbor illegal aliens.

"Sanctuary jurisdictions are inherently more unsafe because they’re letting these individuals out who have serious convictions," acting ICE director Patrick Lechleitner said in a Friday interview with Fox News.

"Sanctuary jurisdiction" refers to any municipality whose leaders refuse to cooperate with immigration officials when an illegal alien under their jurisdiction commits an offense that would result in deportation.

Lechleitner’s comments—a response to the Thursday arrest of four migrants charged with assaulting a New York City police officer in January—are a notable contradiction of White House policy. One of President Joe Biden’s first actions upon taking office was reversing a federal order that barred sanctuary cities from taking Justice Department funds.

Biden’s Justice Department urged the Supreme Court in March 2021 to dismiss all cases on their docket related to sanctuary cities. Left-wing activist groups celebrated both decisions, with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center saying in October 2021 that under Biden, "sanctuary policies can be enacted without risk of losing federal funding."

Law enforcement officers have encountered more than 5.5 million illegal aliens since Biden took office. Cities such as New York have begun to buckle as tens of thousands of migrants flock to their streets. New York officials are exploring budget cuts to provide housing and other social services for illegal immigrants in the state.

Deportations have plummeted under the Biden administration. A study from the Center for Immigration Studies found there has been a 67 percent decrease in the deportation of criminal aliens and a 57 percent decrease in arrests of criminal aliens since Biden took office.

Immigration has become a top concern for voters in both parties as Congress struggles to reach a compromise on border security.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.