Lies, Damned Lies and Sanctuary Cities

A week or so ago, a commenter to this blog asked for an explanation of Sanctuary Cities and States. The question was understandable, because the Trump Administration–beginning back when Jeff Sessions was Attorney General– has consistently misrepresented the issues involved.

Anti-immigration activists and apologists for the administration insist that “sanctuary” cities and states are places where the rule of law has been suspended — places where evil Democratic-controlled governments have formed alliances with “open borders radicals” (as Sessions once put it) to prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents from arresting unauthorized immigrants even when they’ve been convicted of crimes.

Back when Sessions was threatening to withhold federal grants from cities and states that dared to declare themselves Sanctuaries, Vox did one of its “explainer” columns, in an effort to dispel misunderstandings on both sides of the political divide with what it termed “the wonky truth.”

The federal government has spent the past 20 years using local government (especially law enforcement) as a force multiplier to help it find, arrest, and deport immigrants more efficiently — and for almost as long, progressives have been trying to reassert local autonomy. At this point, the line between “obstructing” federal law enforcement and simply deciding not to help isn’t as clear as one might expect.

In the courtroom, the fight over sanctuary cities is narrow and technical. Outside the courtroom, it’s a culture war.

One of the problems is that–as the article points out–“Sanctuary city” is not an official government term. In fact, it has no legal meaning.

Lots of people use the unofficial term “sanctuary city” to refer to local jurisdictions (not just cities but counties and sometimes states) that don’t fully cooperate with federal efforts to find and deport unauthorized immigrants. If that sounds vague, that’s because it is, and it gets at the tension between federal policy and local law enforcement generally used to carry out those laws.

One reason for the confusion is that local police departments aren’t legally required to assist the federal government with just any policy the federal government might want to enforce. In 1997, in Printz v. United States, the Supreme Court confirmed that the federal government “may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the State’s officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program.”

Immigration law is federal law. Not only is immigration enforcement not a local law enforcement priority–as the article points out, local police don’t usually get involved with the enforcement of, say, federal tax law either–most police chiefs argue that helping apprehend otherwise law-abiding immigrants is a “net negative” for local law enforcement, because it makes immigrant communities leery of police and less likely to report crimes or cooperate with investigations.

So exactly how much assistance local governments should provide in immigration enforcement is an ongoing fight. At heart, it’s been a policy fight over what local governments should do. But under the Trump administration, in particular, it’s taken on the color of law: the idea that cities are refusing to do something they’re obligated to do.

The Trump administration alleges that local ordinances or state laws that bar the sharing of information about immigrants — like California’s SB 54, which prevents jail officials from telling ICE when a prisoner will be released (in many cases) unless ICE has a warrant signed by a judge — violate the federal law. Cities and states that have passed such policies, however, argue that sharing information about when someone will be released from jail or prison is different from sharing information about their immigration status, so it’s legal for the state to put restrictions on the former.

Whatever the technical legal arguments, the real fight over sanctuary cities or states is political and cultural. As the Vox article notes, in the aftermath of Trump’s election, a number of mayors signaled their “resistance” by declaring themselves sanctuary cities. It was also a way to reassure immigrant residents that while Trump might be making them feel unwelcome in red America, they would always be welcome in America’s (almost all blue) cities.

In response, Republicans have continued to stoke fears with dishonest rhetoric about those “criminal immigrants” and blaming cities and states controlled by Democrats.

Today’s Republicans are waging war with anyone who is  “other.” Meaning anyone who isn’t a white Christian native-born male.  They’re just reluctant to put it that baldly, so they settle for exaggeration and confusion.


  1. When the Trump administration begins to start supporting the following of laws (itself), perhaps listening at least to some of their propaganda might become faintly feasible! I’m not holding my breath!

  2. It is ironic that a number of cities and counties in Virginia have declared themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuary Jurisdictions” in defiance of the state legislature’s plans to pass gun control legislation, which they feel is “unAmerican.” Apparently the legitimacy of “sanctuaries” depends on whose oxen are gored.

  3. White supremacists also hate other whites who’ve been educated, but that’s a topic for another day. It’s the mob mentality, and it only takes two of them to get whipped into a frenzy.

    These heavily-armed militia types are scared of immigrants despite wanting to arm every teacher in America with a weapon to stave off potential violence in schools.

    Not sure how you can be a patriot if you are scared of everything non-white. I would call them cowards or scared little boys in adult bodies. They all flock to Trump and his speeches, where Trump insults non-whites consistently. He also insults dishwashing machines and toilets!

    Ahh, to be young again where you can choose where to live. A backward place like Red Indiana or someplace more progressive like the coasts or out West. I wish I had another move left in me because Canada looks very enticing, as does many of the Scandinavian countries.

    If we don’t get a progressive into the White House and have to endure another four years of Trump, it’s going to be a LONG four years.


  4. Thank you. I also appreciate the links you provide that allows further reading & learning about your topic of the day.

  5. When Trump’s human and environmental carnage is added up in years to come there will be few who will want to admit any family connection to the Republican Party… like the grandchildren of slave owners today.

  6. Is it any ironic wonder among us what this discussion sounds like among elders of Native American tribal councils across our nation?

  7. “Today’s Republicans are waging war with anyone who is “other.” Meaning anyone who isn’t a white Christian native-born male.”

    I think you forgot to add a modifier to the statement above — heterosexual.

  8. Peggy,

    Correct, and that’s been going on since Reagan.


    Look into Hokitika, New Zealand. Lovely place and I’m sure somebody will hide you in their basement until you can gain asylum.

    This “controversy” is not dissimilar to how the Nazis justified their purges of Jews and undesirables in the 30s and 40s. Clearly, mindless hate and bigotry is more than just a passing fancy. It’s in the DNA of those who refuse to make the intellectual leap out from under that fetid blanket of self-serving hate.

    Nothing will change – indeed, things will get much worse – until Trump and his Republican lackeys are GONE. On that topic: So, how did you all like the Nevada farce? Did you see a candidate emerge that made your heart go pitter-patter? Do you think any of those candidates will bring enough Senators into government to save our Constitution from the ravages of Moscow Mitch? Why is Tom Perez still running the DNC? Doesn’t he like to win and beat Republicans?

  9. I was tempted to use the word ignorance when referring to the Trumpet and his Trumpeter followers. I decided one commonly used word like ignorance was not enough. So I used an online Thesaurus. (Trumpeters would probably think a Thesaurus was a dinosaur that would not fit into Noah’s Ark and thus became extinct.)

    Any way other words for ignorance: callowness, crudeness, incomprehension, uncouthness, or shallowness. These words all seem to describe the Trumpet and his followers.

    Need a recent example:
    “How bad were the Academy Awards this year?” Trump asked a rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The crowd responded with loud boos.

    “The winner is a movie from South Korea, what the hell was that all about?” Trump asked. “We got enough problems with South Korea with trade and on top of it, they give them the best movie of the year.”

    Parasite made Oscars history as the first film not in English to win best picture.

    “Was it good? I don’t know. I’m looking for, like – can we get like Gone With The Wind back, please?” Trump said, to loud cheers.

    When Parasite won the Golden Globe for best foreign-language film, its director, Bong Joon-ho, said: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.

    Neon, the studio that distributed Parasite in the US, responded to Trump’s dig on Twitter with a dig of its own: “Understandable, he can’t read.” Side Bar – Ohh how true!!!!!

    How true to form for The Trumpet and his Trumpeter’s of the Neo-Confederacy > – Gone with the Wind a story about the “Lost Cause” with happy slaves.

    Like a Black Hole in astronomy The Trumpet sucks in all matter, all we see are Trumpter’s circling around the Black Hole of Trumpism. If you look you can see Pence, Moscow Mitch and Lindsay Graham circling steadily pulled in.

  10. “…local police departments aren’t legally required to assist the federal government with just any policy the federal government might want to enforce.”

    Trump announced during his bogus SOTU address that he had sent Congress a bill to allow victims of immigrant criminals to file suit against them. The following week it was reported that the bill had passed the Senate; it included that Border Agents would be sent into these cities and states (if there is a way to identify such cities and states) to aid ICE in upholding this law. This bypasses using local law enforcement. A report on “Morning Joe” this morning regarding Mick Mulvaney’s speech stating this country needs more legal immigrants because immigrants are needed in the workforce.

    Mulvaney; who is till running the Management and Budget Office (MBO), called the GOP as being hypocritical over the current deficit. Will he be the next to submit his Trump requested resignation for telling more truths and who will replace him? The new Acting Director of Department of Intelligence has no experience in the Intelligence field; but any issue from this administration using the term “Intelligence” needs to come with an explanation or a disclaimer.

    “Today’s Republicans are waging war with anyone who is “other.” Have you kept count of how many Republicans have become declared “other” in this revolving door administration?

  11. I am also reminded when Federal Troops were sent to Mississippi to enforce desegregation in schools — don’t imagine the local sheriff’s was inclined to assist. As was said above: Apparently the legitimacy of “sanctuaries” depends on whose oxen are gored. — this is an excellent video showing that “we” are all of “them”.

  12. I fear that the concept that a place can declare itself a “sanctuary” against any law it doesn’t like is an early indicator of what could come, especially if The Duck is re-elected (or if he isn’t?). Can only begin to imagine places declaring themselves sanctuaries against abortion, immigrants, solar power….and “for” open carry, stand and defend, etc.

    Will this be part of the coming civil unrest (war)?

  13. We Americans have very short memories. We tend to forget that what is referred to as our “Southern Border” was not created, through the lack of a better word: “loving-kindness.”

    Seriously, as a PEACEFUL gesture, if I was President [that’s a big if] I would reinstate the old border with Mexico and give back Texas, NEW MEXICO, Arizona, and the southern part of California. That’s the only PEACEFUL solution.

    Are you all with me on that?

  14. People who were advantaged by the past feel entitled by what they had nothing to do with – who their parents were. They feel that if they could hang on to the past rather than let it morph into the future they could hang on to their entitlement longer. They package those feelings in pseudo-patriotism of what’s best for the country.

    LIberals say that what’s best for the country is to follow the Constitution, the laws that stem from it and the traditions of government that created what’s known around the world as the United States of America, not the home of Pete and Judy.

    It’s a war between me and us, between culture and knowledge. Culture has many faces depending on everyone’s personal history but knowledge is a single set of things recorded in many places but traditionally in text books and taught by education in schools by experts of many different levels. Republicans have integrated many different cultures into one just as religion always did. Democrats are stuck with a single glue of knowledge. That’s why politically Republicans rely on everything but the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and rely on social and entertainment media mythology. Democrats rely on what they consider something more compelling – facts.

    Which will prevail in our democracy?

  15. Marv, That border would be the Sabine River from the Golf of Mex. to the 32nd parallel, from there along the Red River to the 100 th Meridian, from there north to the Arkansas River to its source and then north to the 42nd Parallel and west to the Pacific Ocean.

  16. Marv, Irvin,,

    Oh, let’s just not pick at nits. Let’s give it all back to the original inhabitants and let them draw up their own borders. The re-distribution of land and property should keep lawyers and real estate agents busy forever.

  17. i remember the cop on the corner,looking and talking to neighbors,passerbys,giving directions,casual conversation,smile,tell the kids not to smoke,,weve come a along way into a police state,military option,(the supremacist)every trumper insists ,theres a government spy watching everyone…well, there is, its called corprate America, they porvide for their own, info, to so called target sales, and whatevers.. when the gov wants to know something about someone,get a warrent for any cool reason, and contact said corprate America for any,and all, they have on john or jose doe. many joses have given up on food stamps because of this timely free for all, on privacy..turn off the phone,theres a item called sting ray,,that pings towers as you move,with a hand held devise.. sanctuary,yes, provide to those who provide to us,everyday.. food processors,farm,ranch,construction, child care,errands,the best damn hand labor standing outside home depots..i spent the 70s in calif. worked side by side with people who would work me under the table..darker skin,and a bigger smile bud…if we look at them as aliens,we missed the point on why they are here,and how..farming took a major hit, ranching the same.
    but the ones who dont farm and ranch, are already to bust a nut telling the cops where to go..
    those loosers, amid the many of us, dont see the good in anyone,except as they see it. blind justice,and bigots amasses.. seems thier need for friendship and commaradery, are
    the basis of this movement in trumps dump. like bikers, or vietnam vets,or some car club, its a social need,and recognition.. scarry to see trumpers in public with ar 15s aks and the side arms. what next,surplus tanks? few if any think outside of ammo and thier god..imagine if we went to a cashless society and every thing they need was now in the scope of the corprates..
    they may find supporting a goverment of the people,far more handy than thier cheap rehetoric i hear,every day…places like L.A. and such have a immigrant foundation,not just a place where they live..they decided how and when their needs are met,and at little discomfort to the rest..they take time and look at the issues,then move to adjust.when someone is hungry,someone will help. i am glad i was able to live and work with these fine people. break some bread with em sometime,you may find what is lost,and what is missing,and where we took a diffrent headed to hexas again.. looking for that mom and pop, mexican bistro.
    nothing better than a hot plate of chili verde..and chiding some trumper about his lack of wishes..

  18. There are one set of facts that humans have proof of about everything that comprises the universe and 7.5B opinions in the world. My belief is that we are all stuck with the same single set of facts even though no person personally knows all of them, but opinions are perfectly free. I try to share my opinions and the facts I have learned and others are perfectly free to disagree with the opinions. When applied to government both the opinions and the sanctity of facts are the essence of liberal democracy. That’s what the Age of Enlightenment brought to political science.

    The main reason that Trump is a failure as President is that he has chosen to learn only a bare minimum of the facts humans have proof for and as a substitute regards his opinions as fact. That’s why he is IMO completely unaware that he lies almost continuously. He’s sure whatever benefits him personally must be a fact.

  19. Sanctuary cities, or cities of refuge have been around since the days of Moses. If a person was innocent in an accidental death instead of willful manslaughter/murder, a person could live out his days, without having to worry about The Avenger of Blood. Unintentional wrongdoers or protected from retribution. Unlike today’s churches which protect criminals along with the innocent, it shows a contrast between God’s Mosaic law and Abrahamic law covenant and the New Testament law of Christ, Compared to the apostate Christian churches that do not rely on Scripture but man’s own traditions and dogma.

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