Sanctuary Town fallacies

I wanted to thank Richard (Anping) Liu for his articles on the Sanctuary City/Sanctuary Town issue, as well as the other contributors we have had over the last couple of months on this topic. Richard's most recent article examines crime rates for Sanctuary Cities and Towns versus state averages. (See ) Illegal immigration and whether we should impede or not cooperate with federal law enforcement is a very interesting philosophical issue.

On the one hand, we have people who believe in "law and order." Of course, if there is an "unjust" law, one should never just blindly follow it. We can probably all agree that under normal circumstances, the law should be followed and only under extraordinary circumstances should we ignore or find ways to get around the law.

Such circumstances should be few and individualized, not a blanket "ignore the law" type scenario, as has been proposed by the Sanctuary City proponents. If an individual is here illegally and they have a good reason (they missed their flight, they have filed an appeal, or they face persecution if they return to their home country), then a judge should take that into consideration. But ignoring the law for everybody is a non-starter in my mind.

On the other hand, we have the Sanctuary City proponents, led by State Senator Jamie Eldridge. They feel that our federal immigration laws are too strict, and that all the people who are in the country illegally should be given some benefit of the doubt. I find it very disturbing, however, that a lawyer and member of the state legislature like Eldridge would be advocating a non-law-and-order solution rather than something that respects our legislative process. But Liberals don't have to be consistent or logical in their stances because, I guess, they are ruled by their emotions and if they "feel" that the law isn't right, they can urge people to ignore it...even if they are part of the rule-making authority. Strange, I know.

Be that as it may, there have been some spurious arguments in favor of Sanctuary Cities. Today, I want to discuss the argument that police chiefs and police departments are in favor of sanctuary cities because it helps them keep communities safe. The argument is that people who are here illegally will be reluctant to report crimes or be witnesses to crimes for fear of identifying themselves for potential deportation. This means that law-breakers may be able to evade arrest or conviction because witnesses will not come forward because they are scared.

I find the underlying argument convincing, but I believe we should reject the advice of the police chiefs and departments who are using this line of reasoning to argue in favor of passing Sanctuary City or Sanctuary Town laws to provide some form of protection for illegal immigrants or to urge non-cooperation with federal authorities.

As the master of analogies, let me explain my reasoning on this issue by offering an anology. Let's say we asked Fire Chiefs this question: Based on their professional expertise and with the idea that we want to keep people safe from home fires, do they favor banning cigarettes?

Of course, the Fire Chiefs would all say yes. If you look at an issue in one-dimension, an "expert" can give his opinion and perhaps for that issue, the expert is correct. There is no question that if we banned cigarettes, we would prevent many, many home fires and save lives.

But the issue of cigarettes is not primarily a fire-safety issue. Fire safety is a corollary issue when it comes to whether or not cigarettes should be legal. Likewise, whether we can possibly reduce crime is a corollary issue to whether or not we should have Sanctuary Cities.

The funny thing about this argument is that we are perhaps asking the police the wrong question. Being a reluctant witness probably comes up every now and then, and who knows if tons of crimes are not being reported. But the actual crimes committed by illegal immigrants seem like a much more appropriate question to be asking law enforcement. Do illegal immigrants commit crimes? (Of course, some do.) And would we have less crime had we deported the individuals who are here illegally before they committed their crimes? (Of course.) So we can lower the number of actual crimes if we deport illegal immigrants because some of them do commit crimes.

And we don't need to poll Police Chiefs to see if this is true. This is simple logic. (The Left has argued that the crime "rates" of illegal immigrants are lower. This is another specious argument to try to ignore the crimes that illegals commit, as I have discussed in previous articles. See )

There are a lot of experts we could ask to find out if illegal immigrants had this or that effect on our society. Reporting crime is one such effect, but there are hundreds if not thousands of potential examples. And I'm sure for every effect where illegal immigrants have a neutral or even positive benefit, there are going to be just as many where they have a detrimental effect of there is some cost. Now, I do not think it is a strong argument that we should deport illegal immigrants because some of them commit crimes. The incidence of crimes committed by illegal immigrants is small, partly because illegal immigrants do not want to be deported, so are probably going to act pretty lawfully to avoid arrest. If we were being subject to some major crime wave, that would obviously change. And it is possible that there are crime waves occurring in other parts of the country which would make that a valid reason for mass deportations in that area, at least. And I don't think it is a strong argument that we should shield illegal immigrants from deportation because we would have some incremental positive effect on the number of crimes being reported or conviction rates where illegal immigrants are key witnesses.

The reason to deport illegal immigrants is because we have laws which state that people here illegally should be deported. Those laws are valid, logical, and just. These laws have gone through our legislative process and should be enforced. If we don't like the laws, we can ask our elected officials to change them. Otherwise, unless something extraordinary is involved, which would be decided by a judge on an individual basis, the default should be that we enforce our laws.

Subscribe to the Acton Forum and get our newsletters emailed to you -- FREE! Click on


Unintended consequences

One of the most widely accepted conclusions after the 9/11 attack, at least at that time, was that there is a need for the myriad local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to communicate better, to share information, to cooperate at every level to increase their ability to identify and prevent such attacks in the future. Easier said than done under the best of conditions, this is a big country with vastly different attitudes toward law enforcement driven by population densities, geography, local customs, the economy, and much more.

The "sanctuary" premise is based on discouraging, and if politically possible, forbidding the cooperation between local police and federal law enforcement agencies, exactly the opposite of what is needed to stay ahead of the great and growing danger to everyone's safety from the fanatical haters determined to destroy everything and everyone who does not share their view of the world. I know that it is not the intent of the sanctuary proponents to diminish this country's ability to provide maximum possible security, and someone will argue that the sanctuary constraints do not prevent the local police from cooperating fully with other law enforcement agencies on non "illegal immigrant" (or whatever the politically correct terminology is) issues, but that is naive. There are many situations which make the status of the detainee unclear, and with complex rules and a price to pay for violating the sanctuary constraints it is inevitable that wrong decisions will be made.

I am not saying that illegal immigrants are terrorists, albeit there may be some, that is irrelevant to my concern, which is, to sum it up, that the tunnel vision implicit in the promotion of "sanctuaries" does not allow for the consideration of unintended, and potentially deadly, consequences.

Charlie Kadlec