Government & Politics

How Sanctuary Cities Compromise the Rule of Law

This "compassionate" way to protect illegal immigrants from being arrested and deported has deadly consequences.

Caroline Camden Lewis · May 18, 2017

From its beginning, the United States has been a nation of immigrants. The first colonists came from Britain in the 17th century, and since then our country has welcomed people from countries across the globe. People have fled from disaster, escaped tyranny or migrated for the opportunity to participate in this great land called America.

Unlike many countries around the world that find their basis in the arbitrary whims of a dictator or the police state, America’s basis lies in Rule of Law. Within the context of Rule of Law, her citizens are given Liberty, justice and equity before the law. Our civil order as a nation relies upon whether or not we uphold the law or choose to discard it.

For far too long, our country’s leadership has compromised this civil order by ignoring the immigration laws. Rather than enforcing those laws, many in our leadership have chosen to “wish it away” by doing nothing — or worse, actively undermine the law. Now, after several decades of negligence, the Pew Research Center estimates that a massive 11 million illegal immigrants currently reside in our country. Nearly half of those are visa overstays. Perhaps due to our guilt in enabling illegal immigration through negligence, the key issue has changed from Rule of Law into compassion and family unity. Our culture asks these questions of us: How can we deport a family who has been here for several years? How can we punish people who are merely seeking a better life?

In this stream of thought, sanctuary cities have emerged as a “compassionate” way to protect illegal immigrants from being arrested and deported. According to The Washington Post, 500 cities have declared themselves “sanctuary cities” in which local police are not required to comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. This means that if an ICE official requests that an illegal immigrant be detained because of criminal activity, local law enforcement can refuse to comply. Sanctuary cities violate federal law while stifling cooperation between local law enforcement and the federal government. Rather than being compassionate, this lack of coordination can lead, in many cases, to the inability to arrest and detain criminals — with deadly results.

A 2014 ICE study discovered that of the 8,145 individuals released as a result of refusing a request to detain, 1,867 were re-arrested 4,298 times while being charged with 7,291 crimes. This study reveals how these criminals, released due to local law enforcement’s refusal to comply with ICE detaining requests, continued to commit crimes and incur arrests.

Scott Erickson, president of Americans in Support of Law Enforcement, wrote in a recent op-ed for The Daily Signal, “Stripping local law enforcement of the ability to merely cooperate with their federal counterparts on issues as plain as the removal of a dangerous criminal jeopardizes the safety of all law-abiding individuals.”

Sanctuary cities also neglect to address the larger issue of Rule of Law within a civil society. Our country makes laws to protect our sovereignty and our citizens from harm. Law must be law, not someone’s own preference. Rule of Law grants justice in our society by providing a framework to acquit the innocent and punish the guilty. Rule of Law allows our society to be civil and to function in a reasonable way, rather than a society of chaos in which everyone chooses which laws “work for them.”

Measure have been taken to uphold the law as shown in the recent Texas bill signed by Governor Greg Abbott banning sanctuary city policies and requiring local law enforcement to cooperate with ICE. Those who refuse to comply can face a misdemeanor charge and up to a year in jail. This bill acts as a big step in the right direction of protecting citizens and upholding Rule of Law.

Even Bill Clinton, speaking of the illegal immigration crisis, stated in his 1995 State of the Union address, “We are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it.”

The solution does not exist in creating sanctuary cities that refuse to comply with federal law. The solution exists in enforcing existing laws, since the lack of enforcement has created this problem in the first place. An unwise society believes in eroding Rule of Law because it seems easier and faster in the short run. A wise one understands that enforcing the law is the only way to uphold a civil society and moral order.

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