SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- Suddenly, I need sanctuary -- from presidential candidates who exploit tragedy to breathe life into their campaigns.
Ruben Navarrette Jr.: Mitt Romney is using the Newark, New Jersey, tragedy to boost his campaign.
You know the story of Jose Carranza. Or at least you think you do.
We know that Carranza is an illegal immigrant from Peru and the alleged ringleader in a brutal attack in Newark, New Jersey, on August 4 that killed three African-American college students. We know that Carranza was twice indicted on charges of aggravated assault and the rape of a 5-year-old girl and that -- because of his immigration status -- he shouldn't have been out on bail. And we know that officials with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency claim that they were never told about Carranza.
What we don't know, and won't until New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram finishes her review of this case, is whether this happened because Newark is a so-called sanctuary city , where local police are not required to determine the immigration status of those they arrest, let alone inform federal officials. Despite what you hear on talk radio, it's possible that this case has nothing to do with sanctuary. Legal experts say that local officials may have assumed that Carranza was in the country legally and that he may have fallen through the cracks due to bureaucratic ineptitude -- the kind that sometimes results in U.S. citizens getting bail when they shouldn't.
Reasonable people should wait for the facts to come out before jumping to conclusions -- or trying to score political points.
Republican Mitt Romney, who must be getting desperate since he can't get beyond 15 percent in national polls, is using the case to bludgeon Rudy Giuliani. The Romney campaign is running a radio ad blasting "cities like Newark, San Francisco and New York City that adopt sanctuary policies" and become "magnets that encourage illegal immigration."
Stop the tape! As New York mayor, Giuliani did continue a policy of prohibiting city employees from reporting suspected illegal immigrants to federal officials. But while Romney was governor of Massachusetts, several cities there had similar policies and he never spoke out against them.
The radio spot also calls sanctuary cities magnets for illegal immigration.
Stop the tape! There is only one magnet that draws illegal immigrants. It's called a job -- like, say, landscaping.
Earlier this year, The Boston Globe reported that Romney -- for more than a decade -- maintained the grounds of his house in Belmont, Massachusetts, by employing a landscape company that relies on illegal immigrants. The Globe tracked the workers' home to Guatemala, where they told reporters that the owner of the company knew they were illegal. They said that Romney was nice to them and greeted them with a "buenos dias," but never asked whether they were in the country legally. When asked about the story by a Globe reporter, Romney scoffed "Aw, geez," and walked away.
And now the toughie from Harvard Business School is trying to brush aside that story, get mileage out of the tragic deaths of three young people and turn an illegal immigrant into the Willie Horton of the 2008 campaign.
Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the editorial board of The San Diego Union-Tribune and a nationally syndicated columnist. You can read his column here.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer. E-mail to a friend