The topic of sanctuary cities has been dominating the news feed over the past year. It’s a hot button issue because it ties illegal immigration together with local, state and federal jurisdiction and creates a perceived power struggle between the three jurisdictions. Politicians on all levels will create or enforce laws that they feel serve the needs of their communities the best. I’ve heard the arguments on both sides of this debate and can see merit on each of the opposing points of view. My goal with this post is to get to the heart of the debate and see if there can be common ground found which makes the most sense for everyone involved. For some, that solution may be equivalent to peace in the Middle East or Moses parting the Red Sea. I realize it’s challenging but I don’t think it’s that difficult. What it takes is for rational people to come to the table and speak without the rhetoric politicians typically use when it’s time to get out the vote. Politicians are the only ones who can create and pass laws so this is probably a lot to ask. Ultimately what will influence our elected leaders is the pressure from the people who brought them to the dance. That’s where you and I come in.
So let’s get a clear definition of what sanctuary policies are. A search of this topic online brought me to The Center for Immigration Studies website cis.org. According to their description, The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research organization founded in 1985. It is the nation’s only think tank devoted exclusively to research and policy analysis of the economic, social, demographic, fiscal, and other impacts of immigration on the United States.
They compiled a list of sanctuary cities, counties, and states with the most recent list being as of April 16, 2019, and placed them all on a map. These cities, counties, and states have laws, ordinances, regulations, resolutions, policies, or other practices that obstruct immigration enforcement and shield criminals from ICE — either by refusing to or prohibiting agencies from complying with ICE detainers, imposing unreasonable conditions on detainer acceptance, denying ICE access to interview incarcerated aliens, or otherwise impeding communication or information exchanges between their personnel and federal immigration officers.
A detainer is the primary tool used by ICE to gain custody of criminal aliens for deportation. It is a notice to another law enforcement agency that ICE intends to assume custody of an alien and includes information on the alien’s previous criminal history, immigration violations, and potential threat to public safety or security.
I’ve included a link to their site so you can see all of the localities listed. If you live in the North East, North West or a large portion of California you probably reside in a sanctuary city, county or state. The sanctuary policy divide is similar to the Electoral College divide when you take a quick glance at the map. Approximately half the states in the US have some form of local, county or statewide sanctuary policies.
There has always been a power struggle when it comes to state rights and federal law. You would think that the federal government would have the final say over all matters but it’s not that simple. Take a look at the gun laws from state to state. The right to bear arms is a constitutionally protected right. Try traveling with a firearm from one state that promotes that right and another that all but outlaws it and see what happens. The same thing goes for immigration enforcement. Solely the federal government determines immigration but sanctuary cities and states will do everything they can to make ICE agents jobs as difficult as possible when it comes to removing criminal illegal aliens. Some feel those policies are compassion based and no human is illegal. Others have compassion but believe we have laws for a reason. If you fail to enforce those laws then what’s the point of having them?
And that’s the key to understanding this battle.
Compassion and too much of it is something I was warned about when I was young. The saying “give them an inch and they will take a mile” is how many people feel about this issue. Other people will come across like those commercials you see late at night asking for money using pictures of people or puppies that need your help and pull at your heart. I usually don’t donate and feel like crap after I watch those videos. I don’t feel bad for long though. We all have problems and bills to pay.
Recent images of a father and his child washed ashore on the Mexican side of the border when they tried unsuccessfully to swim across the river to the US will make even the most callous person stop and ask what are we doing? They were not the first people to die crossing the border and sadly will not be the last. The compassionate crowd will say let everyone in so there are no more deaths. The rule of law crowd will say we understand they are in a search of a better life but they have to follow the rules and go through the process like everyone else that came before them. So many people who came before them did what they want to do. They crossed illegally or overstayed their authorized period of admission, plead for asylum and waited to find out the judge’s decision. If our laws allow for them to potentially obtain status that way why would they think it’s not okay to do it?
Politicians who promote sanctuary policies are of the same mindset. They have compassion for the person seeking a better life and believe the laws of this country should make it easier, not harder for people to immigrate to. They feel that immigration itself is not a crime and want the Federal laws to change to reflect those beliefs. The recent Democratic Primary debates showed many of the candidates on stage taking that position with a simple show of hands.
Democrats and Republicans have historically been on opposite sides of this debate but have worked together in the past to come to an agreement on how to deal with illegal immigration. So much so that if you listen to speeches given by Obama when he was a Senator and Clinton when he was President you would think that you were listening to Donald Trump minus the vilification and broad strokes of hate. Maybe it’s the way Trump speaks and how he says it that makes people think he hates all immigrants. He doesn’t hate all immigrants. He may sound like it sometimes but his focus in on illegal immigrants and the strain they are placing on our border patrol at the southern border. He has compassion for the people coming across the border but has more compassion for the people of this country. I guess you can compare it to an exclusive nightclub. Everyone who is anyone wants to get in because that’s where all the cool and beautiful people are. The only thing standing in your way is the velvet rope, bouncer, and doorman who is super picky on whom they let in. I’ve been that person who was not let in many times and several times found a way to sneak in anyway. It’s no fun waiting outside in the cold with no hope of getting in. When you finally do make it in you have to keep an eye out for the doorman who remembers he told you no. Other than that you party the night away and hopefully have a great time.
So what’s the solution? Are you on the side of the compassion crowd or are you of those who have compassion but to an extent? The nightclub example is a good comparison. With low unemployment and a large number of unfilled jobs, employers need people to fill those positions. The immigrant sees all of his friends and neighbors getting jobs in the US and wants to get in on the action too. The border patrol is the doorman saying not so fast buddy! You don’t have the right papers to come in and work. Come back another time. Sanctuary city policies are the back door entrance to the club that allows you to stay once you found a way in. Sooner or later the lights will come on and the judge will decide on whether you can stay or go. If they say yes the party continues. If the judge says no and you don’t want to go sanctuary city policies will help you hide when the bouncer comes to kick you out. They can’t stop the bouncer completely once they get their hands on you but will do everything they can to provide a distraction and block access to you while you’re there.
There needs to be a consensus on what kind of country we aspire to be. Too much immigration leads to decreased wages for the majority of the people on the lower end of the earnings scale. Too little immigration leads to jobs unfilled and work that needs to be completed. Employers that can afford to automate often do which leads to the elimination of certain jobs entirely. Besides employment, there is the human factor of wanting to bring over family members. Legal immigration addresses the majority of those issues. What it doesn’t address is the consequences of those who do not qualify for immigrant status.
Recent visits to detention facilities by members of Congress have brought to light the overcrowding caused by the hundreds of thousands of migrants who are apprehended at the border. It’s impossible to hold people for more than a few weeks at a time as more and more people come to join them. The facilities shown on cable news channels with people crammed in together in standing room only positions were not built to handle the massive surge we’ve seen this past year. They were certainly not designed for thousands of pregnant women and unaccompanied minors.
Regardless of the tough stance on immigration by the President and recently the Mexican government migrants from over 100 countries around the world are continuing to make the dangerous journey across the southern border and in large part are seeking out border patrol agents to claim asylum. They’re taking a calculated risk that they will only have to be held in detention for a few weeks before they are released into the US with paperwork to show up for a court date that will be determined sometime in the future. Average wait times to be seen by an immigration judge can be over 1,400 days in some locations as the immigrant court backlog was over 809,000 in 2018. Three to four years is a long time to be seen by a judge. The best-case scenario for the migrant is they will be able to work while they are waiting for their case and be granted asylum. The worst-case scenario is they will be able to work while waiting for their case and if denied hide out in sanctuary cities so they can stay longer until they figure out a way to stay permanently. Either way, they have achieved their goal of coming to America to find work.
And that’s the four-letter answer to the problem or at least a potential partial solution to it. Here is something Congress can do immediately to address the influx. The J1 visa is an employment based non-immigrant visa. Presently people who are approved for the J1 visa can look for work in a variety of areas from Au Pair, Camp Counselor, Intern, Summer Work Travel, Teacher and Alien Physician to name a few. The fee is $160 and the person applying for the visa can be petitioned by a company or an agency that promises to help them find a job. While most applicants will have a position lined up they are allowed to look for a job when they enter the country as long as it complies with the rules and guidelines of the program. An easy fix is to ease some of the requirements of that program and expand it to people who may otherwise not qualify. Doing so and promoting those changes to the countries with the largest amount of populations coming across the border would potentially reduce the number of people coming without documentation. It’s not a complete solution but it can be a portion of it.
Asylum claims should also be changed for people to only claim them at American embassies. This is self-explanatory and would drastically reduce the incentive for those making the journey across the southern border that are making false claims of asylum for economic purposes. This doesn’t mean that people will not stop trying to cross without documentation. It just means they will not file frivolous asylum claims, which will help reduce the court backlog. People will always try to find a way in as is similar to the nightclub example I mentioned earlier.
As for the millions of people already in the country I wrote a post called Immigration Probation where I outlined a proposal for Probationary Resident Status that you can find on my site. It addresses the majority of the illegal immigrant population in our country in a manner that is humane and is fashioned after existing immigration law. For people that would not qualify for that program or any other rational program that is allowed by current immigration law, there is only one final choice: reality or amnesty.
Reality is simple. There are consequences for one’s actions. An order of removal by an immigration judge is final. If you’re ordered to be removed which means you will be deported if you don’t go on your own volition you will be removed by law enforcement whose job it is to do so. Amnesty means the entire pretense of immigration law is a charade and carries no weight or validity. If one set of laws has no validity what precedent does that set for others?
Your feelings on the topic of sanctuary cities are based on your personal experiences and beliefs. That goes the same for everyone else. If we are to be a united country we have to have a unified law system. This is one that every municipality, county, and state adheres to. When you report to work each day you have to check your feelings at the door and do the job at hand. The same goes for our local, state, and federal politicians. Come up with one standard for immigration that the majority of people agree with and stick with it. When the laws change stick with those standards. Whatever the rules are everyone needs to play by them. Imagine playing any game and having the rules be different from one town to another. Everyone would be upset and nobody would be able to call the game. That’s sanctuary cities in a nutshell.