War between US government and sanctuary cities heating up
The battle to enforce federal immigration law in sanctuary cities is escalating as cities defy orders from federal immigration authorities to put a "hold" on illegal aliens and the feds try to bring pressure on sanctuary cities by denying them certain federal funds.
At the same time, Republican legislatures across the country are considering legislation to ban sanctuary cities in their states.
Legislators in 33 states have introduced measures to limit or prevent cities from acting as sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants. Only one state this year, Mississippi, has enacted a ban on sanctuary jurisdictions, but several others, including Texas, Indiana, Iowa, Florida and Georgia, are advancing their own bills.
Sanctuary cities and counties often defy requests from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to hold undocumented immigrants so they can be picked up later for deportation. While there is no technical legal definition of a sanctuary city, many of the bills under consideration would require cities to swear under penalty of perjury that they comply with federal detainer requests.
"If a city calls itself a sanctuary city, that means a lot of different things to a lot of different cities," said Pennsylvania state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R), who has sponsored a ban on what his legislation calls "municipalities of refuge."
Reschenthaler's bill, which has passed the state Senate and is awaiting action in the Republican-led state House, would withhold state grants from any city that does not agree to hold detainees for up to 48 hours at ICE's request. It would also deny those cities sovereign immunity.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has withheld millions of dollars in grants to Austin's Travis County. State Sen. Charles Perry (R), who has sponsored one of the 23 bills dealing with sanctuary city legislation, said state grants make up a substantial portion of many city and county budgets, which means local officials pay attention when a state moves to block those funds.
"The only way you can get a jurisdiction's attention is if you withhold the money," Perry said. "We have several jurisdictions in Texas that, either implicit or explicit, have become sanctuary cities."
Non-cooperation with federal authorities in holding illegals who have been arrested for misdemeanors is one thing. But there have been numerous instances where an illegal has been charged with a felony, and the city refuses to hand him or her over. This is why ICE agents have been seen at courthouses across the country. Federal agents have discovered that the best means of apprehending an illegal who commits a crime is when he shows up in court for his hearing. Sanctuary cities may complain about agents "stalking" illegals, but that's ridiculous. If the city isn't going to cooperate, then ICE agents will enforce the law without them.
Cutting off funding is a good way to apply pressure on sanctuary cities, but it usually ends up hurting law-abiding citizens who are put at risk by reduced funding for law enforcement. But then, it should be up to local residents to put pressure on the politicians to comply with the law. A few politicians who lose elections due to their defiance may do more than all the pressure the federal government can bring to bear.