Sanctuary policies make us more, not less safe

March 30, 2017

Photo by Geoff Livingston (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Photo by Geoff Livingston (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

California is leading an effort to protect immigrant communities from the fear and terror caused by ICE raids. Senate Bill 54 (SB 54) — a sanctuary state bill — would prevent California law enforcement agencies from aiding in immigration enforcement. While the Trump administration has threatened to withhold federal grant funds from local and state municipalities that enact sanctuary legislation, it would be unconstitutional to do so.

California Paving the Way for a National Sanctuary Movement

SB 54 prohibits California state and local police from using state resources to enforce federal immigration laws and requires state agencies to protect the confidentiality of immigrants’ data. Those who oppose the bill, like Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, have expressed concern that the bill may increase community mistrust toward local law enforcement. This is not the case.

A report by the University of Illinois found that “70 percent of undocumented immigrants reported they are less likely to contact law enforcement authorities if they were victims of a crime.” Additionally, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has stated that criminal reporting has dropped by 25% since the beginning for 2017 as compared with the same period last year. Similar decreases were not seen in reports by other groups.

To strengthen policing models and increase public safety, President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing recommended decoupling federal immigration enforcement from routine local policing. SB 54 strikes the right balance and would help to preserve the hard-won trust between immigrants and law enforcement.

Federal Government Cannot Legally Defund Sanctuary Spaces

Trump promised to restrict federal funding to sanctuary spaces and carried through on this promise with an executive order. Earlier this week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions doubled down on this threat. These threats are hollow.

According to federalist principles articulated in two key Supreme Court cases, Printz v. US and NFIB v. Sebelius, the federal government cannot legally coerce states to comply with federal mandates by threatening to withhold federal funds. These precedents make clear that the Trump administration’s coercive efforts to pressure states to support federal immigration enforcement are illegal. Therefore, sanctuary spaces are safe and free to refuse compliance with immigration officials.

State and local governments seeking to establish sanctuary for vulnerable immigrant communities should not be intimidated by the Trump administration’s threats. When California takes action, the entire nation watches. Other states and cities need to pass their own sanctuary policies, and protect our immigrant communities. Constituents and organizations in California should continue to pressure their elected officials to support measures like SB 54.

MPAC Commitment to The Sanctuary Movement

The lack of federal action — executive or legislative — on immigration reform necessitates support for vulnerable communities through the sanctuary movement. MPAC is committed to the expansion and advancement of the sanctuary movement. It was a central campaign during our 2016 convention and, more recently, President Salam Al-Marayati convened a coalition meeting urging LA County Sheriff McDonnell — a vocal opponent of SB 54 — to support the bill or at least stop his active opposition. MPAC believes SB 54 is not only a key protective measure for immigrant communities within California, but also a champion for the sanctuary movement across the nation.

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