Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a recent op-ed for the Washington Post that she originally ran for office because she wanted to change the way things operate. She may be changing things more than she thought and in ways she never imagined. Following calls to investigate her decision to alert illegal aliens in her community to an impending ICE raid, Iowa Congressman Steve King (R) has introduced legislation which could lock up public officials obstructing justice in this fashion for as much as five years. (Washington Times)
Tipping illegal immigrants off to a looming immigration sweep could net sanctuary city leaders jail time, under a bill announced Monday by Rep. Steve King.
The Iowa Republican dubbed the bill the Mayor Libby Schaaf Act, after the Oakland mayor who alerted California’s Bay Area to an impending sweep this year, a move that immigration officials said helped hundreds of people escape detection.
At the time, the chief of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Ms. Schaaf was essentially acting as a “gang lookout” tipping off lawbreakers when police came through their neighborhood.
Mr. King’s bill would include a penalty of up to five years in prison for any state or local official who obstructs enforcement of federal laws.
“I want lawless, Sanctuary City politicians to hear this message clearly: If you obstruct ICE, you are going to end up in the cooler,” Mr. King said in announcing his bill.
I somehow doubt that King is expecting much support from his Democratic colleagues on this one and the bill may be nothing more than an effort to make a point in this debate. I’m also not sure there’s really a need for such a law. As we’ve discussed here previously, we already have laws on the books which cover this. Under Title 8, Chapter 12, anyone can be charged with harboring or shielding from detection any illegal aliens, leaving them subject to a fine and/or not more than 10 years in prison. I see no reason why an elected official such as a mayor wouldn’t be subject to that law.
Then again, when it’s a public official doing it, that’s a special sort of violation in some ways because they’re violating their oath of office and undermining the laws they are sworn to uphold. In that sense, perhaps a special law specifically covering elected officials might be in order.
Of course, even if this gets signed into law it won’t apply to Mayor Schaaf, so she doesn’t have much to worry about. You can’t prosecute someone for a law passed after they commit the act, so unless Schaaf plans to do any additional gang signaling when ICE is coming to town she should be in the clear.
I do hope that this bill at least earns time for an open debate on the floor of the House. If nothing else, it will be entertaining to see if any Democrats are willing to take to the podium and argue against holding elected officials accountable when they flout the law. How does one even begin to structure such an argument? If you’re going to start making exceptions under the law for people in public office that could lead to all manner of uncomfortable conversations in the current climate of Washington.