Sanctuary cities violate the rule of law

Printed from:

Ours is a “government of laws, and not of men.” – John Adams

The unparalleled success we have achieved as a people is a direct result of our adherence to the values laid out in America’s founding documents and our common respect for the rule of law. But our social fabric will erode if we allow ourselves to be governed by the whims of men — no matter how noble their intentions may be.

Nowhere is this risk more prevalent today than with respect to the issue of illegal immigration.

Legal immigration to the United States is a sign of health, a sign of growth. By its very nature, legal immigration is an invitation from our citizens to the world asking them to become American. In return, we trust that immigrants will obey American laws.

The argument that those who seek sanctuary in the United States must do so according to the rules our nation has established is not a rejection of immigration or of any particular immigrant group per se, but rather a rejection of the notion that law is meaningless.

There has been much in the news recently about “sanctuary cities” – cities that refuse, as a matter of policy, to contact federal immigration authorities when a suspected illegal immigrant has been arrested for committing a crime.  Here in Massachusetts, the issue has been brought to the forefront with recent efforts to make the Commonwealth a “sanctuary state.”

Currently, Cambridge, Chelsea, Northampton, Lawrence, Orleans, Somerville, and Springfield have official sanctuary city policies. This summer, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone gained attention from the national media when challenged Bobby Jindal, a Republican presidential candidate and Governor of Louisiana, for saying that mayors of sanctuary cities should be held accountable when illegal immigrants commit crimes.

Mayor Curtatone’s self-serving rhetoric may bring him adulation from the left wing of the Democratic party, but refusing to notify ICE when those who are here illegally are arrested for crimes is a profoundly unsafe practice. And make no mistake, this is practice, not law. The sanctuary city policy might be authorized by local officials–but by doing so, these officials are in clear violation of federal law.

Pushing past the misguided application of mayoral executive orders, legislators on Beacon Hill — led by state senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) — have begun an effort to codify such policies in state law.

Cynically named the “Trust Act,” the legislation’s sponsors claim that unless law enforcement officials are prevented from reporting illegal immigrants, many will refuse to report crimes due to fear of being deported.

This argument holds no water as it conflates the reporting or witnessing of a crime with the possible deportation and arrest of the criminal suspect. In a recent appearance on WGBH’s ‘Greater Boston,’ Jessica Vaughan, Director of Political Studies for the Center For Immigration Studies, appearing with Sen. Eldridge made this exact point. Again, Senator Eldridge reiterated essentially his only argument, namely, that his legislation would enhance community trust and not moving it forward would erode community trust.

While Gov. Charlie Baker has said publicly he opposes this type of legislation, he does not possess a veto proof majority in either legislative body.

In the 1990’s, crime dropped in New York City by a significant amount through policies like “community policing” and “broken windows.” This reduction took place though increased number of arrests, particularly for smaller offenses, and increased police presence in neighborhoods. The premise behind broken windows is that if criminals see a permissive atmosphere for low level crime they are more inclined to commit more serious offenses.

Parallels can be drawn to the current situation of illegal immigrant criminals. There is no question that many, if not most, criminals who have been arrested have also committed crimes for which they have not been arrested.

Deporting an illegal immigrant after an arrest can reduce future crime in real terms, making our cities and towns safer places to live.

Lawmakers in Massachusetts owe it to the citizens of the Commonwealth to reject the “Trust Act” and the concept of a “Sanctuary State.”  Removing common sense law enforcement tools threatens the safety of all members of our community. But it also threatens the rule of law.

Jeff Semon is a former candidate for United States Congress (MA – 5) and the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Young Republicans. He is also the co-host of The Lincoln Review podcast on Soundcloud. The opinion expressed above is solely that of the author. 


Immigration roils passions amid presidential posturing

Immigration nation

E pluribus unum: Out of many, one