Many mayors have declared that their cities are safe places for undocumented immigrants to live. These cities are called sanctuary cities. Sanctuary cities are municipalities that limit their cooperation with the federal government’s effort to enforce immigration law, and that provide extended social services to undocumented immigrants. These cities will be increasingly important if immigrants do not regain the protections they enjoyed under DACA, the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals Program. Likely, more immigrants will move to sanctuary cities. More important than asking if sanctuary cities are legal, we should be asking what can be done to provide better legal options for immigrants.
Andrew Napolitano, a former judge of the superior court of New Jersey, explained that the actions taken by these cities are not illegal. According to the Constitution, all powers not specifically granted to the federal government are left to the states and municipalities.
The New York Times specified five states that have sanctuary-like policies: California, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, and Oregon. They also found that 633 counties had policies which hinder how much local police can cooperate with federal immigration officials. For example, the Washington Times explained that the city of Chicago has given undocumented immigrants the money they need to pay for legal fees that can protect them from being deported.
President Trump—along with most Republicans—does not like the idea of a sanctuary city. Within a couple of months of taking office, the President blocked federal funding for sanctuary cities. He argues that these cities are allowing criminals to escape the law. Michelle Steel, a supervisor in Orange County, believes that California is allowing unnecessary crime. She explains that local law enforcement officials are not coordinating with Federal law enforcement to prevent illegal immigrants that have committed crimes from being released from custody.
Obeying the law is very important, but Democrats argue that immigrants should be granted easier access to legal status. Many of the immigrants who were protected by DACA have been in the U.S. for many years. They might not even remember their former country. It doesn’t seem fair to deport them just because policymakers are unable to work together. Unfortunately, the plight of these hundreds of thousands of immigrants has become more of a political tool and contentious topic than it has been an opportunity to serve. Republicans and Democrats need to compromise on this issue. Finding a solution must be the highest priority.
While it does not seem appropriate for local officials to deny federal immigration agents of their help, it does not seem appropriate for DACA immigrants to be deported, either. The best solution is for the federal government to create a system that makes legal immigration more efficient. When legal immigration seems possible, sanctuary cities should no longer be necessary. For now, they are a symbol of a flawed immigration system.
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