What is a Sanctuary City? The name conjures of images of safe places where the city will protect illegal immigrants from federal immigration officers. But that’s not it at all. A Sanctuary City is a city that chooses not to utilize its government employees as agents of the federal immigration services. It’s a very passive thing. Sanctuary Cities typically give four reasons for taking this stance.
First, Sanctuary Cities feel they have their hands full dealing with their own crime problems, and do not want to allocate limited law enforcement resources to do the federal government’s job for them.
Second, Sanctuary Cities believe that aiding the immigration services in rounding up and shipping out illegal immigrants would destroy the relationship between local law enforcement and the ethnic communities they serve. In other words, it would be detrimental to their ability to do their job.
Third, Sanctuary Cities often believe that the mass roundup and deportation of millions of people, many of whom have been living here peacefully and productively for many years and who have families that they will be torn away from, is a cruel and inhumane approach to the challenges of illegal immigrants living here. Pounding on the door in the middle of the night. Heavily armed men and women forcing their way into a home, guns out, much shouting. A parent cuffed and dragged away, possibly never to be seen again. Think about how this affects young children. Think how it affects the entire community. Think about how it affects the ICE agents who are forced to do this over and over and over again. Think about what it says about who we are as Americans.
Fourth, Sanctuary Cities tend to believe that the presence of millions of long-term illegal immigrants in our communities should not be viewed as a problem at all, but as an opportunity. Study after study has shown that illegal immigrants are a net gain for their communities economically; in other words, they pay more into the system than they take out. Contrary to White House propaganda, they are generally law-abiding people for the simple reason that they don’t want to attract attention. Illegal immigrant communities have lower crime rates than similar communities without a significant illegal immigrant population. They are usually hard working and will do jobs others don’t want for wages other won’t work for. On balance, illegal immigrants are a net gain for our country by virtually any measure you can think of.
Sanctuary Cities are often at the forefront of calls for comprehensive immigration reform. Recognizing that mass roundups and deportations are wrong-headed and counter-productive. they typically advocate for a wholesale overhaul of our out-dated federal immigration policy to arrive at something that makes sense for everyone involved. In other words, instead of looking at it as a win-lose proposition, we should be looking for a win-win proposition.
There are entire states that have declared themselves to be Sanctuary States. As with Sanctuary Cities, they do not interfere with federal immigration officers, and if they are presented with an arrest warrant for an illegal immigrant, they will honor it. But beyond that, they are not willing to allocate their law enforcement resources to the government’ efforts to round up and deport illegal immigrants.
The Christian Church in particular has a long history of providing sanctuary to those whose humanity is under attack by the state. Christians (and others) were involved in giving sanctuary to Jews being rounded up by the Nazis. The Underground Railroad that helped get slaves from the slave states in the South to Canada was largely a network of sanctuaries. As the Trump administration ramps up its deportation forces, expect to see more of this.