Mike Kueber's Blog

April 15, 2011

Sanctuary San Antonio and ICE

In a recent posting to my blog, I asked whether San Antonio was as sanctuary city.   The question was based on a column by Veronica Flores suggesting the city personnel were obstructing federal ICE personnel under its Criminal Aliens Program from apprehending illegal immigrants who were being processed at the city’s detention center.  Veronica promised additional reporting, and on Tuesday her column delivered on that promise. 

According to Veronica’s most recent column, a hundred pages of e-mails from city employees “reveal a deliberate effort to stall ICE’s attempts to grow its presence at the Detention Center.  And they seem to show city staff walking a political tightrope, outwardly appearing to be cooperating with federal immigration enforcement efforts while simultaneously trying to keep ICE at arm’s lengthIt’s unclear what or who is directing staffers’ actions….  City Attorney Michael Bernard recently told me that, while the city would be “loathe” to tell the federal government that its agents can’t come in to municipal facilities, doing so would be within the city’s purview. For now, at least.  But who would want to own that political landmine?”

The city of San Antonio is obviously being run by people who want it to operate like a sanctuary city, but don’t want the voters to know.  Veronica clearly agrees with this approach:

  • You won’t find me quibbling with the effort to root out the criminal element, even as questions persist about the effectiveness of this approach. Where things get sticky for me, as they apparently have for city officials, according to e-mails obtained by the Express-News, is how the sweeps also have picked up illegal immigrants whose offenses might be as minor as municipal warrants for unpaid traffic tickets.  The ripple effects on the community are profound: a workplace may suddenly be without its employee and a family without its principal breadwinner. These aren’t ICE’s concerns. But they are for a city whose mayor and chambers of commerce regard the contributions of illegal immigrants as economic assets.”

Let’s see – Veronica doesn’t “quibble” about rooting out the criminal element.  What’s to quibble about?  What argument is there for giving sanctuary to criminal illegal immigrants? 

Things “get sticky” for Veronica only when the illegal immigrant is in jail for a minor offense.  When was the last time a family member of yours was in jail for a minor offense?  And since when should government be concerned about the ripple effect of a deportation on an employer who illegally hired an illegal immigrant? 

The bottom line for Veronica is that the “mayor and the chambers of commerce regard the contributions of illegal immigrants as an economic asset.”  I don’t think that is an adequate justification for obstructing immigration personnel from enforcing federal law.

July 23, 2010

Julian Castro and San Antonio’s Not Ready for Primetime Players

On June 24, the San Antonio City Council met to consider Mayor Julian Castro’s resolution declaring the city’s opposition to Arizona’s new law against illegal immigration.  The four-hour discussion, primarily 3-minute speeches from about 50 local activists or politicians, can be viewed at the following website –

http://sanantonio.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=8.  Although the citizen input was remarkably banal and predictable, Mayor Castro and his merry henchmen, Chief McManus and City Attorney Michael Bernard, managed to stake out a position that is indefensible for the pre-eminent leaders of one of America’s so-called great cities.

Mayor Castro wandered into his indefensible position while attempting to assure the pro-Arizona people that he was no scofflaw.  He asserted that everyone agreed about enforcing America’s immigration law, but the question was the manner of enforcing it.  To help explain this concept, he provided two analogies:

  1. Red-light cameras.  San Antonio could put a camera at every intersection and routinely issue citations to every motorist who violated the light.
  2. 2 a.m. bar closings.  San Antonio could post a policeman near bars at 2 a.m. and then check the drivers’ blood-alcohol content because there would be a “reasonable suspicion” that they were drunk.

Although these measures would enable San Antonio to nab additional violators, Mayor Castro asserted that San Antonians didn’t want such heavy-handed enforcement.

Both analogies surprised me.  Regarding the red-light problem, I thought the city was declining to use the cameras because of their cost-effectiveness, not because they would be too effective.  I don’t know why the city wouldn’t want to cite every identified red-light violator. 

The bar-closing analogy is even harder to understand.  I have always assumed the city does everything possible to keep drunks off the road, but apparently it doesn’t.  Furthermore, I am shocked the mayor thinks that leaving a bar at 2 a.m. gives the police reasonable suspicion to stop a driver based on intoxication.  Does he think that everyone goes to a bar to get drunk?  Although Mayor Castro went to Harvard Law School, perhaps he learned his definition of “reasonable suspicion” from his city attorney, Michael Bernard.

Earlier in the meeting, Bernard was asked by Councilperson Clamp to describe “reasonable suspicion.”  Bernard said that there was a continuum between a hunch and a certainty and that reasonable suspicion was a little more than a hunch.  I suggest that simplistic description does a disservice to a significant legal concept.  The U.S. Supreme Court, which developed the concept, described it as “specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion.”  Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).  And I submit that leaving a bar at 2 a.m. does not, by itself, create reasonable suspicion of intoxication that would justify stopping a driver. 

Perhaps Chief McManus could have explained that practical application to Attorney Bernard and Attorney Castro, but the Chief was pre-occupied with trying to explain to Councilperson Clamp why San Antonio police enforced some federal laws (bank robberies and large drug violations), but not others.  According to McManus, the San Antonio police has a policy of never inquiring about immigration status and therefore would never have occasion to turn over an illegal immigrant to federal authorities.  This willful failure to enforce federal laws bothered Councilperson Clamp.  He declared that their oath of office required them to enforce federal laws.  According to the Texas Constitution, the oath taken by city officials must include the following:

  • I, xxxxxx, do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will faithfully execute the duties of the office of xxxxxx of the State of Texas, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this State, so help me God.

Does it sound like San Antonio is, to the best of its ability, preserving, protecting, and defending the laws of the United States?  More troubling, does it sound like San Antonio has the sort of seasoned experience and good judgment that it needs in the key positions of Mayor, City Attorney, and Chief of Police?  Sounds to me like these guys are not ready for primetime.