Should American cities have the right to ignore federal law, and protect or aid illegal immigrants? The question continues to gain importance as the national debate over illegal immigration continues.
According to the Congressional Research Service “Controversy has arisen over the existence of so-called ‘sanctuary cities.’ The term ‘sanctuary city’ is not defined by federal law, but it is often used to refer to those localities which, as a result of a state or local act, ordinance, policy, or fiscal constraints, place limits on their assistance to federal immigration authorities seeking to apprehend and remove unauthorized aliens.
“Supporters of such policies argue that many cities have higher priorities, and that local efforts to deter the presence of unauthorized aliens would undermine community relations, disrupt municipal services, interfere with local law enforcement, or violate humanitarian principles.
“Opponents argue that sanctuary policies encourage illegal immigration and undermine federal enforcement efforts. Pursuant to § 434 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA, P.L. 104-193) and § 642 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA, P.L. 104-208), states and localities may not limit their governmental entities or officers from maintaining records regarding a person’s immigration status, or bar the exchange of such information with any federal, state, or local entity.
“Reportedly, some jurisdictions with sanctuary policies take a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach, where officials are barred from inquiring about a person’s immigration status in certain circumstances. Though this method does not directly conflict with federal requirements that states and localities permit the free exchange of information regarding persons’ immigration status, it results in specified agencies or officers lacking information that they could potentially share with federal immigration authorities.”
The International Business Times notes that “Last December, Democratic mayors in two dozen municipalities launched an effort aimed at helping undocumented immigrants seek temporary status and obtain some legal rights. In 2013, the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana announced it would decline federal immigration detention requests except when an individual is held on felony charges for violent crimes. The policy change was prompted by a New Orleans council member’s resolution to end the holds, citing their strain on local law enforcement resources, according to a council spokesman. Supporters of such policies say there are higher municipal priorities, and that deterring the presence of undocumented immigrants is more disruptive in administering municipal services and interferes with local law enforcement, according to the CRS study. Conversely, a study of undocumented immigrants and resources in New York City published by the Federation for American Immigration Reform found that the city was spending $5.1 billion annually on helping illegal immigrants. ‘We are sacrificing the financial security of American citizens’ with sanctuary policies, said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for FAIR, an anti-illegal immigration group.”
While the federal government has been far less than vigorous in its effort to stop illegal immigration at the border and to apprehend and deport those illegals who have escaped into the nation’s interior, the lack of cooperation among state and local jurisdictions has also been a factor. According to the U.S. Customs and Enforcement agency, (ICE) “ICE’s efforts in the interior…were impacted by an increasing number of state and local jurisdictions that are declining to honor ICE detainers. As a result, instead of state and local jails transferring criminal aliens in their custody to ICE for removal, such aliens were released by state and local authorities. Since January 2014, state and local law enforcement authorities declined to honor 10,182 detainers. This required ICE to expend additional resources attempting to locate, apprehend, and remove criminal aliens who were released into the community, rather than transferred directly into custody. These changes further contributed to decreased ICE removals.”
The Ohio Jobs & Justice PAC describes why localities engage in “sanctuary” policies:
“ One justification of creating sanctuary cities is often under the guise of protecting ‘immigrant rights.’ But illegal aliens are not immigrants — immigrants come to the U.S. legally, and maintain their legal presence. When a person is illegally smuggled into the U.S. or violates their visa restrictions — he/she is not an immigrant or visitor, but an unauthorized alien subject to deportation under existing federal law.
“ Another common argument public officials use to justify sanctuary policies is safety–framing them as an effective ‘community policing’ policy tool. The argument goes as follows: Illegal aliens who are victims of crimes or are witnesses to crimes won’t report them to police for fear of arrest and deportation. However, these political panderers ignore the fact that if the illegal aliens were removed from the U.S., they would not be here to become victims, and the predators would be out of the country too.
“Why do public officials pass sanctuary laws or establish unwritten “don’t ask–don’t tell” policies? There are a variety of reasons. Some politicians attempt to appease illegal immigration support groups such as the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund (MALDF), and League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), or other immigration activist groups that lobby local governments to implement formal or informal sanctuary policies. Other reasons include political contributions and ethnic voter support at election time; complacency, ignorance, or “don’t care” attitudes; and purposeful resistance to existing U.S. immigration law based upon an open-border political philosophy that may serve their economic, political, or ethnocentric interests. A great number of politically appointed big city police chief’s often support an administration’s sanctuary policy because they share a similar political ideology or just want to keep their job. It’s much easier too for city officials to collect their paychecks and avoid the political protests and threats of expensive lawsuits that routinely follow attempts by cities to stop illegal aliens from taking root in their communities.”
Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on April 14, ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña stated: “Another significant factor impacting removal operations has been the increase in state and local jurisdictions that are limiting their partnership, or wholly refusing to cooperate with ICE immigration enforcement efforts. While the reasons for this may vary, including state and local legislative restrictions and judicial findings of state and local liability, in certain circumstances we believe such a lack of cooperation may increase the risk that dangerous criminals are returned to the streets, putting the public and our officers at greater risk. Given ICE’s public safety mission and limited resources, state and local cooperation is essential to our success. During calendar year 2014, state and local jurisdictions have declined more than 12,000 ICE detainer requests. There are more than 200 jurisdictions, including some of the largest in the country, that refuse to honor ICE detainers and some have also denied ICE access to their jails and prisons…”
Ironically, Ms. Saldana’s federal agency was bemoaning the lack of cooperation by localities, the Obama Administration has continued with its policy of harassing local sheriffs who seek to enforce federal laws against illegal immigration. Speaking on the Cavuto program earlier this year, Sheriff Paul Babeu, from Arizona, described being threatened by the White House for taking an active stance against illegal immigration.