Friday, March 24, 2017

Sanctuary Cities

Immigration has been a hot button topic for quite a while, but especially so in light of the anti-illegal immigration rhetoric which contributed to the election of Donald Trump.   Within the vitriolic debates concerning immigration, illegal and otherwise, there is an interesting side bar concerning sanctuary cities.  Sadly, as is so pervasive with media coverage of any topic that is controversial and/or partisan, actual facts are often missing so I thought I might do some research on the topic in an attempt to present some information that may not be widely discerned.

First, what is a sanctuary city?  The most accurate definition that I encountered is that a sanctuary city is one which permits residence by illegal immigrants to help them avoid deportation.  Those that argue against the existence of a sanctuary city will often expand that definition to include the more damaging statement that these cities refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement by allowing felons to roam free and commit violent crimes.

When I hear that more expanded definition, I generally ask why the municipal police and city government officials of a sanctuary city want violent criminals to go free in their cities? Unfortunately, rather than asking that question, many people accept the premise that those (usually liberal/democrats) who govern those cities must hate the citizens of their city, or, even worse, tolerate the crimes of the illegal immigrants in order to gain some kind of political recognition, or perhaps praise from the humanitarian community which is at best, naive, at worst, blind to the evil and violent nature of the illegal immigrant.

If we assume otherwise, that advocates for adopting policies that do not cooperate with federal immigration laws actually do care about those people who live in their jurisdiction, and have reasons not naive or nefarious. then what are those reasons?

First, let's understand the nature of an illegal immigrant.  They are people who have fled their native country, sometime because of a government that is corrupt and insensitive to the needs of its people, sometimes because economic hardship drives them to seek opportunity elsewhere, sometimes to escape violence or civil war.  Some are aware that they might be able to apply for refugee status if they can prove that they qualify, but most either don't understand the nature of government laws that differentiate between refugees and immigrants, or have decided to take the chance of entering the United States illegally rather than continuing to live in a dangerous or poverty stricken environment.

Are there illegal immigrants who prefer to steal to survive in their new country?  Of course, just as there are US born individuals who eschew hard work for the easy way out.  So, again, why would a municipality treat those that commit crimes differently, if they are undocumented rather than US citizens?

Cities with significant illegal immigrant populations defend their actions to provide residence and services to illegal immigrants in an attempt to try to lessen the fear of deportation, so that the undocumented will be more willing to report crimes, get health services or social welfare benefits and enroll their children in school.  The logic is that, since they are here and are interested in becoming productive citizens, we should encourage them to be "Americanized", so to speak, by incorporating them into the fabric of the community.  In this way, they are less likely to resort to crime, more likely to stay out of trouble so that their desire to seek better opportunity and provide such to their children is more likely to be realized.

Of course, addressing the illegal immigration issue is more than just advocating for sanctuary cities or for mass deportation of all those here without documentation.  And, that is the rub, not enough discussion and too few solutions that are neither too far right or too far left.

Perhaps before discussing sanctuary cities or mass deportations, we might move away from the dehumanization of those here illegally and try to understand them as people.  The following information might be helpful.

I am not sure that sanctuary cities are the answer, although I clearly do not think that we should "round them up and send them back".  I thought that the DREAM act would have been a good start. It included a host of requirements before granting conditional residency, and targeted young people who were brought to this country illegally by their parents.  But, using Senate rules requiring 60 votes, not just a majority, it was defeated in 2010 by a 55-41 vote (curiously, 4 senators did not vote which I find obscene).  Only 3 of 42 Republican Senators voted in favor (36 against, 3 non-voting), while 50 Democratic Senators voted in favor, 5 against, 1 non-vote.  Both Independent Senators voted in favor.

Some might say that the increase of sanctuary cities is in part due to inaction at the federal level to address illegal immigration.  With (at least) 11 million undocumented people in our country, states and cities have to establish some policies.  In fact, a number of states enacted their own version of the DREAM Act when the no action came from Washington.

At this point, with an estimated 30% of the illegal population having lived in America for over 15 years, with approximately one in three illegal adult immigrants caring for a US born child, with well over 90% of the illegal children in our country attending our schools, it seems foolish, and frankly inhumane to think we can solve this problem through mass deportations.  

But make no mistake, illegal immigrants who commit violent crimes, or are recidivist of even petty crimes, should be deported, as was done under both Presidents Bush and Obama.  And, securing the border to limit future crossings should be well funded as it has been since illegal immigration from Mexico and other countries to the south has been.  Since 2003 the budget for the Border Patrol has increased from just under $6 billion to over $12 billion.  Additionally, employers who avoid paying livable wages by hiring illegals, especially those employers in California, Texas, and Florida which account for almost half of all undocumented workers, should be held accountable for the incentive they provide for future illegal crossings.

In the end, sanctuary cities and illegal immigrants is a people problem.  And, like all people problems, only solutions that treat them as people will be successful.  Anything short of that reflects poorly on our country, and our standing in the world as the "shining city on a hill".

No comments:

Post a Comment