In the legal struggle over the extent, if any, to which Sanctuary Cities can defy the Trump administration's mass deportation agenda, a recent threat of criminal prosecutions by acting ICE director and Trump loyalist Thomas Homan against local officials who don't fall into line shows that there is more at stake in this dispute than the narrow issue of where and how federal officials should be able to arrest unauthorized immigrants held in local jails.

CBS News reports that on January 2, Homan, in an interview on Fox News, (who could imagine!) said that local Sanctuary City officials should be held "personally accountable" for crimes committed by people living in the US illegally. He added:

"We've got to start charging some of these politicians with crimes."

Homan added that there would be retaliation for Governor Jerry Brown's signature of a law last October declaring California to be a sanctuary state:

"I'm going to significantly increase our enforcement presence in California. We're already doing it...They're about to see a lot more special agents, a lot more deportation hours in the state of California."

This would not be the first time in modern history that central government "law enforcement" agents, appointed by officials loyal to a democratically elected leader in his pursuit of absolute power, were given the authority to override local police who might have otherwise protected people targeted by the regime.

The site History Place describes how Hitler's interior minister, Hermann Goering, purged local police forces of politically unreliable policemen and put them under the control of the Nazi Storm Troopers:

"The first thing he [Goering] did was to prohibit regular uniformed police from interfering with Nazi Brownshirts out in the streets...These young Nazi toughs took full advantage of police leniency to loot shops at will and terrorize Jews..."

To be sure, there is certainly not an exact parallel between this example of local police being prevented from protecting Jews who, later on, were eventually targeted for extermination, from the excesses of a violent state militia in 1933 Germany; and the Trump administration's attempt 85 years later to threaten local officials in sanctuary jurisdictions such as California with criminal charges if they don't turn over Hispanic and other non-white immigrants who may have been arrested, typically for less serious offenses such as DUI, petty theft or small amounts of drug possession, to federal authorities for deportation.

But the use of the word "terrorize" by a state militia or police organization in the above passage applies equally to the Jews who were soon to lose their German citizenship under Hitler (in 1936) and the predominantly Latin American, Asian, African and Middle Eastern communities, many of whose members are being subjected to increasing fears of incarceration and expulsion from the United States at the hands of what Trump, during his campaign, referred to as his "Deportation Task Force" - a role which ICE is set to be fulfilling more and more under Homan's leadership

The History Place continues:

"Next, Goering purged the Berlin police department of politically unreliable cops and had 50,000 storm troopers sworn in as special police auxiliaries (Hilfspolizei). Now the storm troopers had actual powers of arrest and they relished its use. Jails were soon overflowing with people taken into 'protective custody' resulting in the need for large outside prison camps, the birth of the concentration camp system."

Again, it would be far fetched to call the Trump administration's immigration jails and detention centers "concentration camps" - not yet. Instead, we are seeing an increase in for profit private immigration prisons, such as the ones which GEO, America's largest private prison company, recently received a lucrative contract to build from the Trump administration, giving its executives - and wardens - good reason to celebrate by feasting and golfing at one of Trump's Florida resorts.



But the increase in police state tactics against minority immigrants and accompanying windfall profits for Trump-friendly private prison company CEO's, in a way which at least creates the appearance of open banana-republic style governmental corruption here in America, is not end of the story.

Even more unsettling and ominous in its implications for our democracy is the way in which Trump is loading the federal government with loyalists who are willing to be complicit in carrying out his agenda of repression, not only against minority non-white immigrants, but against Americans who are willing to stand up against his campaign of fear and terror against minority immigrants.

A January 4 article by Mathew Yglesias in states:

"...Trump himself makes no secret that loyalty to him is the key to access, and access is the key to policy influence.

In their new book
How Democracies Die, Harvard political scientists Steven Levitsky and Danial Ziblatt flag this as a key threat to democratic stability."

No one can doubt Thomas Homan's loyalty to Donald Trump, least of all the sanctuary city officials in California and other jurisdictions throughout America who are now being threatened with going to prison for refusing to become complicit in carrying out the president's mass deportation agenda.

Roger Algase
Attorney at Law