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"We Are A Nation of Laws", But "Sanctuary Cities" Are OK?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Right after the 9th Circuit Court ruled against President Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said, “We are a nation of laws, and as we have said those laws apply to everybody in our country." When he was uttering these words, he seemed to ignore the fact that right in his home state, Washington, its largest city, Seattle, is one of those "sanctuary cities" which refuses to enforce federal immigration laws. The mayor of Seattle, Ed Murray, is one of the staunchest defenders of Seattle's "sanctuary city" policy, even after police charged five illegal immigrants who shot and killed Jill Marie Sundberg at a location about 150 miles east of Seattle in last December. It seems the Left only chooses to embrace the "rule of law" if the result is in their favor.


How did we as a nation end up with so many sanctuary cities? The sanctuary movement started in the 1980s when about a million Central Americans, mainly from El Salvador and Guatemala, crossed the U.S. border-seeking asylum from their repressive governments and seemingly never-ending civil wars. But the Reagan administration was supporting these governments’ (especially the governments of El Salvador and Guatemala) attempts to fight communist rebels. Therefore, the administration would only characterize Salvadorans and Guatemalans as “economic migrants, not eligible for policy asylum.” Hundreds of churches in the U.S. openly defied the U.S. government and its immigration policy by providing safe havens for Central Americans. The movement later was turned into an indictment of the Reagan administration’s Central America policy. Eventually, in 1990, Congress passed legislation allowing the president to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to certain groups in need of a temporary safe haven, including explicitly designating Salvadorans for TPS.

Influenced by the sanctuary movement, San Francisco passed the “City and County of Refuge” Ordinance in 1989, which barred city money from being used to enforce immigration law. Hundreds of U.S. cities and counties have followed suit and adopted similar “sanctuary” laws or policies. While San Francisco barred city money from being used to enforce immigration law, it didn’t hesitate to use city money (really, taxpayers’ money) to shield “convicted juvenile offenders who were in the country illegally from federal authorities, either escorting them to their home countries at city expense or transporting them to group homes, often outside the city.” It's worth pointing out that San Francisco receives over $1 billion dollars from the federal government on an annual basis.


As an immigrant, I find the idea of establishing a sanctuary city that operates outside of certain laws of the land very troubling. Supporters of "Sanctuary cities" believe they are being compassionate toward immigrants. But what these supporters are doing is to cater to a small segment of the immigrant population at the expense of most law-abiding legal immigrants.

We as a nation have three times more legal immigrants than illegal immigrants. Many legal immigrants, including myself, followed the law, endured long waits and long separation from our families and made many other sacrifices to become an American. Yes, our immigration law is broken. A real relief for all immigrants would be a common sense based immigration reform. Yet, "sanctuary cities" are taking resources and people's attention away from focusing on sensible immigration reform.

Furthermore, many of us immigrants chose to leave everything and everyone we are familiar with behind to come to the U.S. because we are tired of chaos and lawlessness back in our homelands. We want to live and raise our families in a place where law and order prevail. But the idea of "sanctuary cities" sends the wrong message. When lawless behavior goes unpunished, it only encourages more lawlessness.

On May 12, 2014, 32-year-old Mesa police officer Brandon Mendoza was killed in a head-on collision with a wrong-way driver. The driver was Raul Silva Corona, an illegal alien from Chihuahua, Mexico, who in 1994 pleaded guilty to criminal conspiracy in Adams County Colorado but was not deported. Colorado is one of the handful sanctuary states and in 2013; Colorado passed a bill to allow illegal immigrants living in Colorado to get driver's licenses. Sgt. Mendoza's mom wrote a passionate letter to President Obama. She stated, "My son, Brandon Mendoza, was half Hispanic. It's not the color of skin that my son or I see, it's the person and how they conduct their lives."


On July 1, 2015, Francisco Sanchez, a 45-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexico, shot Kate Steinle as she walked on San Francisco’s Pier 14 with her father and a friend. Sanchez claimed the shooting was an accident. Whether the shooting was an accident or not, this tragedy could have been prevented had the San Francisco Sherriff's Department not released Sanchez from their custody a few months before. The Sherriff's department claimed that they merely followed San Francisco's "Sanctuary City" guideline, even though they were fully aware that Sanchez not only broke immigration law multiple times (he illegally crossed the border five times), he was also on probation in Texas at the time of shooting.

While it's important to remember that neither Raul Silva Corona nor Francisco Sanchez represent all 40 million immigrants and a few anecdotes don't epitomize a trend or evidence, more and more people feel that Sanctuary cities or communities do not promote freedom and compassion; they promote chaos. Furthermore, they help fuel distrust and resentment between immigrants and native-born Americans. "Sanctuary cities" have done a disservice to all American people, and governments at both local and federal levels are losing credibility in their ability to protect lawful residents.

Let's not forget that the entire United States is a sanctuary for people who seek a better life by working hard and abiding by the law of the land. We as a nation can only continue to play the role of a sanctuary for all who seek freedom and escape from oppression if we continue to uphold the rule of law. The left needs to stop its hypocrisy of proclaiming, "we are a nation of laws" on the one hand and choosing to follow laws selectively on the other hand. If you're truly compassionate toward immigrants' well being, please stop supporting sanctuary cities. Instead, please advocate for a common-sense immigration reform.


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