Sanctuary cities trampling the rule of law

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A cardinal feature which has distinguished the American democratic experiment from most other nations in the modern era is that we have, with several major exceptions such as the Civil War, been a society under the rule of law. The best known expression of this principle is that the rule of law means we are “governed by laws, not men.” America, together with the relatively small number of other countries that embraced the rule of law in the recent past such as the U. K. and its Commonwealth countries, has been a beacon of light, attracting many from all over the world who seek to come to our land our land, both legally and illegally.   

In 1996, the 104th U.S. Congress passed a law known as the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). IIRIRA requires local governments to cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency. Despite this law enacted by Congress and signed by President Clinton, there are many communities that have ignored the law, refusing to co-operate with Federal agencies in the execution of this law. These communities are colloquially called “sanctuary cities.” 

This blatant refusal by mayors of many big cities and other local communities to enforce the law of the land is one of the reasons that Donald Trump was elected President.  In Massachusetts, there are at least eight sanctuary cities: Amherst, Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Northampton, Orleans, and Somerville, and Springfield.

Recent polls show that more than 60% of the American people approve of Trump’s program of withholding Federal funds from sanctuary cities. Confronted with the possibility of President Trump’s administration following through on this, mayors of some of our leading cities have stated that they intend to defy the law in their communities. Governor Baker in a recent press conference joined these politicians in saying that he will back efforts to fight the predicted federal crackdown on sanctuary cities.

How did this situation develop in which leaders of local communities choose to blatantly refuse to enforce the law? There are three reasons for this. Liberal, or as they like to be called now, progressive politicians, are generally known routinely to place power over principle (or in this case, the law). Both legal and illegal immigrants often look to the government to meet many of their needs, and accordingly they represent the natural constituency of the Democratic party They can deliver the margin of victory at elections, and it is thus in the interest of many local politicians to curry favor with immigrants in their communities and even provide benefits such as drivers licenses to illegal aliens.

Some might say that this drive to be re-elected and continue to hold political power is a cynical view of the motives of the progressive politicians of sanctuary cities, and the real reason is compassion for the alien in our land – both legal and illegal.  They say that this is mercy triumphing over justice.  Throughout our history, America has derived its values and moral principles from its Judeo-Christian heritage. And the Old Testament does, in fact, repeatedly underline the importance of taking care of the “alien in your land.” But the New Testament is also very clear that we are to respect and obey the law. So this principle of compassion applies to the alien who has immigrated to America legally, not to those coming to America illegally.

The third reason for the willingness of liberal elected officials to refuse to enforce the law is that they generally believe they hold the moral high ground. Most believe that they are morally superior to those who enacted these unfortunate laws, and thus it is not incumbent on them to obey or enforce the law. For example, the Department of Justice in the Obama administration refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in the court of law. Their view was that they would not defend a law which they considered unjust. However this represents the very definition of the rule of men, not the rule of law. This is very dangerous, and if continued, represents a breakdown of society, and if carried to an extreme, could lead to civil war or anarchy.

What is to prevent conservatives from choosing not to obey or enforce certain laws that they believe are unjust? The Ten Commandments, the foundation of our nation’s morality, is  clear on the prohibition of taking innocent human life. What could be more innocent than the life of an unborn baby?  If sanctuary cities are allowed, why shouldn’t local elected officials in conservative regions refuse to allow abortion?  Why shouldn’t marriages other than traditional marriages be forbidden in conservative jurisdictions, as marriage between one man and one woman has been the moral path in Judeo-Christian societies for 2,000 years? Who has the moral high ground in these examples?

The existence of sanctuary cities in America is an outrage. It is a scandal that certain politicians and communities believe that they have every right to break any law that they feel is unjust.  It is even more disgraceful that many of these sanctuary cities are essentially protecting criminals, gang members and other illegals who are a danger to U.S. citizens.  The Trump administration should use every legal and fiscal method possible to abolish the very concept and existence of sanctuary cities. If they are allowed to continue, it will lead to the progressive breakdown of the rule of law in this country. Where that might lead could well lead to tragedy.

Robert Bradley is an investment advisor and entrepreneur. The views expressed in this column are his own and not those of his investment management firm. Read his past columns here.