Sanctuary Cities: Patriotism or Criminality?
The term sanctuary has long held a place of esteem in our religious vernacular. It harkens back to the days when people were persecuted because of a political or religious belief. The church would use its authority to protect individuals and, in effect, to use that God-imbued authority to stand up against the government. Though the practicalities have long fallen into antiquity, the idea of the rights of the individual opposed to the rights of the government has run through our American blood since the very inception of our country. Whether it be political or social protests, writing in candidates or cursing at an elected official, we protect the rights of the individual. Many say that ‘Tank Man’, the Chinese national who stood in Tiananmen Square against a row of tanks, had American blood running through his veins that day. That is who we are.
But there is a contra-argument to this romanticized belief that there is inherent patriotism in our dispute with a law. There is a movie called The Purge where one day a year in the not too distant future all criminal laws are suspended, the thought being that people can have their retribution on one day and then the other 363 will be lawful. Of course, in the end, the dystopian attempt at justice shows its vile underbelly.
So, can we allow judges, mayors and city councils to thumb their nose at federal law? The easy answer is absolutely not. Article VI, Section 2 of our Constitution, the Supremacy Clause, is very straightforward and unambiguous. The laws of federal government are supreme. Immigration, and its enforcement, have long been identified as a federal issue. Cities cannot, and should not, be able to legislate in violation of any federal law. While immigration may be one of the most sympathetic areas within which this controversy exists, the principals are still clear.
If we begin with the premise that we cannot allow municipalities to ignore federal law, then we have to look towards sanctions to accomplish that premise. Unfortunately for the cities involved, that devolves pretty quickly to the pocketbook. After all, there’s precious little else that a federal government can do to enforce its laws on municipalities. They’re not going to bring in the National Guard, and they’re not going to stop trucks in interstate commerce from getting off at the exits that lead to these cities. They can, however, use the purse strings to accomplish the goal of compliance. Congress has the right to fund, and to defund, programs to jurisdictions found to be in violation of federal law. It was attempted in 2015, and blocked by Democratic Senators, but we are on the verge of a new day in Washington. President Trump will need Congress to accomplish this, and he will probably have it.