Numerous cities around the country have declared themselves to be Sanctuary Cities. California is trying to become a Sanctuary State. What are we to make of this phenomenon?
The laws vary a bit, but the thrust is that local political bodies instruct the law enforcement entities under their jurisdiction to refuse cooperation with ICE. The stated objective is to prevent ICE from detaining illegal immigrants and deporting them.
For purposes of this analysis, I will avoid using the currently fashionable term–undocumented. In my view, dialogue is not enhanced by hiding behind euphemisms. Those folks who snuck across the border, or overstayed their visas, are in violation of our laws. The proper term is illegal immigrants. Immigrants who have violated our law. And it is not a minor afterthought in the legal code. Control of residence/citizenship is one of the very few powers reserved for the Federal Government in the Constitution. When Arizona passed a bill mandating that its law enforcement agencies ascertain the immigration status of those stopped for traffic violations and arrested for crimes, and report violators to ICE, lawsuits were promptly filed asserting the unconstitutionality of the law. The plaintiffs won handily. The finding was that immigration law was the sole prerogative of the Federal Government. Sanctuary proponents filed the lawsuits and applauded the ruling, but they seem to have overlooked the burden of the ruling.
There are a number of serious public policy implications that are worth contemplating.
What about the rule of law? If local jurisdictions can flout Federal laws they don’t like, where does it stop? Rule of law means the rulers have to follow the law. Rule by law means the rulers make up the law and the rest of us have to abide. Rule of law is one of the chief pillars of our democracy. It should not be cast aside without thought. If we are going to get to pick and choose which laws to follow, I’d like to ignore planning and building codes. I have numerous ideas that I think are better than the planners and code writers. Those who would change the law need to induce Congress to write a new law. Flouting any law endangers all law.
What about the folks who came here legally? They stood in line and navigated the bureaucratic maze. They committed to becoming full fledged members of our body politic. In effect, the Sanctuary movement is saying to them: You are the fools who followed the rules. Why would those who wish to come here bother to follow the rules if Sanctuary is the order of the day?
What about the need to respond to Trump’s nasty rhetoric about building a wall and making Mexico pay for it? Mexico is not going to pay. Any Mexican politician who agreed to do so would be tarred and feathered. The only feasible method of collection would be a tariff on Mexican imports, which would cause a trade war and international boycott. And Trump’s campaign slogan should have been: “complete the wall”. We have a wall. It has been under construction, in fits and starts, since the Clinton administration. We do need to complete it. Based on topographical conditions, it might be some wall, some fence, some censors, some drones, some patrols and some tunnel detection. We do need to know who is coming over the southern border, because the Mexican police are both ineffective and corrupt.
What about the 12 million illegals who are currently here that Trump promised to deport? Not going to happen. We are not going to bus 12 million people to the border and we don’t have enough planes to fly them home. Sanctuary folks want amnesty for them. So do I. But the other side of that argument rightly points out that we had an amnesty in the Reagan years. Three million. But no effective border control. Something of a controlled experiment that arguably attracted the next 12 million. We need to give legal status to the 12 million, and a path to citizenship for those willing to make the effort, but that will not happen until the Sanctuary proponents agree to effective border control and the deportation of criminal aliens in an expedited fashion.
What about the oppressed folks who are fleeing for their lives from drug gang violence in Central America? First, ask yourself why they are coming all the way to the United States. Because Mexico has very stringent immigration laws. Try immigrating to Mexico without papers. You can make your fortune writing a memoir about your time in a Mexican jail. Next ask why Central America is plagued by drug cartel violence. Because rich America buys the drugs. Because the drug trade generates huge markups that support the gangs and generate turf wars. We owe the governments and law enforcement agencies in Central America some help, because they are overwhelmed as a result of our drug habit. We need to take the high mark-up out of the drug trade (more about that in another post).
What about a limit? There are more than 7 billion people on earth. At least 2 billion live in abject poverty. They lack access to clean water, sewage treatment and an adequate diet. Billions of others live under the heal of inept an/or oppressive governance. Are we going to give sanctuary to all of them? Is the Statue of Liberty a door wide open? If so, the planning commissions in Sanctuary cities are going to have to loosen the restrictions a bit.
Why can’t we get to a sane immigration policy? Neither side will give. Those whose daily lives are impacted by illegal immigration want it stopped. Those cosmopolitan souls who see a bigger picture, and know better, want Sanctuary. A sane immigration policy would attempt to attract legal immigrants with skills and ambition, who were committed to becoming Americans–learning our history, learning our language and adopting our cultural norms. I know that is heresy. What about diversity??? That sacred virtue whose existence we have discovered in the last few decades. A cursory reading of history teaches us that a society with a large minority that does not share the cultural values of the dominant culture is a recipe for unpleasantness. American history 1861–65 is a nasty example. The only two successful experiments I’m aware of are Canada and Switzerland. In those instances, most of the diversity is language.
The Sanctuary movement is driven by compassion. Compassion is an admirable thing, but it is usually not a good basis for public policy. Logic will get us to a better outcome. Compromise will be required.