Right On: Sanctuary cities, Democratic politics and the rule of law

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION – Are you sympathetic to the plight of illegal immigrants and refugees? Or do you see them as a threat to your safety and as undeserving beneficiaries of government welfare?

Put personal feelings and partisan politics aside. Focus instead on the rule of law, the bedrock of our democracy.

Sanctuary cities

President Trump came to office promising to crack down on illegal immigration. Hundreds of cities openly oppose his policies, calling themselves “sanctuaries” for illegal immigrants and actively protecting them from deportation.

Both the Obama and Trump administrations have requested that local governments who apprehend an illegal immigrant for a criminal offense notify them when they are about to release the immigrant. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers could then take the illegal into custody.

Sanctuary cities routinely release illegals without notifying ICE agents.

Aren’t states and cities required to comply with federal government requests? No, they are not.

As Ronald Reagan reminded us, “The federal government did not create the states; the states created the federal government.” States and cities cannot be commandeered into enforcing federal laws.

Further, the Supreme Court ruled that states and cities are required to provide a variety of services such as public schools and emergency room care to all within their borders, not just citizens.

Obama deported record numbers of illegal aliens but chose not to pursue sanctuary cities; Trump has announced his intention to bring them to heel.

The Supreme Court’s watershed 2012 Obamacare decision held that the federal government could not punish states that chose not to expand Medicaid by withholding existing federal payments. Trump could skirt this ruling by offering new funding to states and cities that cooperate on immigration enforcement.

If he does, expect the lawsuits to fly.

Sanctuary cities have highlighted and widened the partisan divide on immigration, poisoning any opportunity for meaningful and much needed reform of our immigration laws.

Democratic politics

While Trump fired up nationalists on the right with his anti-immigration rhetoric, the Democratic Party mainstream moved from opposing illegal immigration to embracing it. An article in The Atlantic described “How the Democrats Lost Their Way on Immigration”:

  • In 2005, liberal blogger Glenn Greenwald wrote, “Illegal immigration wreaks havoc economically, socially, and culturally; makes a mockery of the rule of law; and is disgraceful just on basic fairness grounds alone.”
  • In 2006, liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote, “Immigration reduces the wages of domestic workers who compete with immigrants” and “the fiscal burden of low-wage immigrants is also pretty clear.” His conclusion: “We’ll need to reduce the inflow of low-skill immigrants.”
  • In 2006, then Sen. Obama wrote in his autobiography, “The Audacity of Hope,” “The number of immigrants added to the labor force every year … threatens to depress further the wages of blue-collar Americans and put strains on an already overburdened safety net.”

These three liberals are now “all in” for illegal immigrants, examples of the Democratic Party’s rapid leftward shift.

The Atlantic article contrasted the Democratic Party’s platforms in 2008 and 2016, providing a further demonstration of its leftward shift. The 2008 platform warned, “We cannot continue to allow people to enter the United States undetected, undocumented, and unchecked,” and referred three times to people entering the country “illegally.”

By 2016, this language was gone and the platform’s immigration section didn’t use the word illegal.

So why did Democrats become the party of illegal immigration? Simple: identity politics and votes.

Democrats rely on dividing the country into racial, ethnic and gender groups, then pandering to each group as victims of bigoted white males.

Democrats saw Latinos as a rapidly growing voter bloc. They were confident that by energizing Latinos, they had more to gain than by reassuring skeptics.

Further, Democrats relied on polls showing a general but vague support for more legal immigration. (Disclosure: I support increased legal immigration.) But this general feeling hasn’t translated into votes. Issues like the economy are far more pressing.

Interestingly, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that naturalized citizens vote at lower rates than do native-born citizens. Even with Trump as a candidate, Democratic pandering didn’t change 2016 results.

For Democrats, illegal immigration is all about politics, identity politics that is.

The rule of law

Contradictory studies and reports examine connections between illegal immigrants and crime and the cost of providing government services for them. A Google search provides ammunition for almost any point of view.

But in my opinion, the real damage caused by sanctuary cities is growing disrespect for the rule of law. When leading Democratic politicians and elected officials ignore laws they don’t like, they foster a spirit of lawlessness among their constituents.

Obama was a poster child for this message to the country. During the first five years of his presidency, he explained that he could not unilaterally change immigration law.

Then several months before the 2014 election, he cynically proposed to give all illegal immigrants “legal presence” status, de facto amnesty. He knew full well that this action was unconstitutional and would be slapped down by the courts.

His partisan action sent a clear message: Government officials need not obey laws they don’t like. A current example: Seattle’s City Council has followed Obama’s example by passing a city income tax in clear violation of that state’s constitution and laws.

Democracy depends on the rule of law. I’m with liberal blogger Glenn Greenwald’s 2005 position: Supporting illegal immigration makes a mockery of the rule of law.

Howard Sierer is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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  • youcandoit July 27, 2017 at 7:43 am

    I don’t mind the immigrants here as long as they’re legal. After all if it weren’t for our ancestors we would not be here. How about enforcing the legal part. Take away their free stuff until they’re legal that goes for being documented there’s to many committing crimes and wasting tax payer money court translators.

  • NotSoFast July 27, 2017 at 8:17 am

    Telling it like it is. They’ll be coming out of the weeds on this one.

  • Craig July 27, 2017 at 8:21 am

    Doesn’t the Constitution actually give the federal government the job of securing our borders. If so, I would assume they can compel states and cities to turnover illegal aliens. Is this correct?

    Further, the Congress unconstitutionally interpreted the Constitution when it used it to allow anchor babies to automatically be granted citizenship.

    • Howard Sierer July 27, 2017 at 9:40 am

      No, the federal government cannot compel states to enforce federal law. The federal government can enforce its own laws in all states and territories but only with its own means and at its own expense. Read more here:


      Section 1 of the 14th Amendment clearly states that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States…are citizens of the United States.” Its original purpose was to ensure that former slaves were considered citizens by overruling the famous Dred Scott Supreme Court decision.

  • Stephen Joe July 27, 2017 at 8:43 am

    Sorry Howard, you’re still a conservative Troll.

    • 42214 July 27, 2017 at 10:45 am

      Say it ain’t so Joe. You gonna back up what you say or just be a “Troll” yourself?

  • comments July 27, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    And the republicans allowed illegals to flood in as well. I think more illegals flooded in under bush II than ever in history. Trump went totally against the mainstream of the republican agenda when he harshly opposed illegal immigration in his speeches. This backlash against illegals by the republican establishment is a new thing only coming about from following trump. Whether or not any real change will happen with enforcing immigration I’m skeptical, but I’d like to see it.

  • utahdiablo July 27, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    Oh, this crap with the illegals is going to end and end …* soon, Kate’s law will be law damn soon, and the Wal got it’s first $1.6 Billion today from congress….time to shut the …* door is here and now and it’s getting shut alng with sending the gangs …* out of here too…
    Ed. ellipses: …*

    • ladybugavenger July 28, 2017 at 1:41 pm

      Language diablo. I can fill in the dots sometimes but it’s easier to read without them. And it might make sense without them too ?

  • commonsense July 28, 2017 at 11:52 am

    The Democratic Party is a very diverse collection of groups needing power. They have no ideological commonality. They buy votes by making promises they can’t keep with money they don’t have at the peril of future tax payers.

    Add immigrants to LGBT, BLM, NAACP, unions, feminists and others who will give Dems their votes in return for promised support of their narrow cause. Power is their gig. They change their policy every generation to scoop up any new groups that might vote for them.

    Obama in 2006 was very much against immigration as was Bill Clinton. But this is a new day and votes to garner from where ever they may come from.

    • comments July 28, 2017 at 9:42 pm

      did u read my comment, doctor? You think your beloved R-party is that much better?

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