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Sanctuary Cities Explained

Clearing up the confusion on sanctuary cities. Creation Date Thursday, 19 January 2017. Hits 600

Sanctuary Cities Explained

This election cycle, we have heard a lot about "Sanctuary Cities" and their disregard for the law when it comes to illegal immigration. Donald Trump made dealing with these cities a campaign issue, promising to crack down on them and make them comply with federal immigration enforcement. This was a popular issue with many of his supporters, but in talking with them it became increasingly clear that many of them have no idea what a sanctuary city is, what they do, and how this relates to federal immigration law enforcement. Some of them think that these cities go so far as to harbor illegals and protect them from federal enforcement agents. I wanted to make an attempt at clearing the air on what it is exactly that these cities do.

First, let's discuss how the process of deporting an illegal alien is supposed to work between federal agents and local authorities.

  • When a person is arrested and processed into a local (typically county) jail for a criminal offense, the individual will be fingerprinted.
  • His prints are sent to the FBI, which relays the prints to ICE (immigration and Customs Enforcement) to determine if the subject is in the country illegally.
  • If the subject is undocumented, ICE sends a request for detainment to the local facility that is holding the inmate, giving that jurisdiction authority to hold the suspect while ICE obtains a warrant for their arrest on immigration charges.

This is where the legal issues begin that have lead to many counties (more so than cities) refusing to comply with the detainment requests from ICE. First off, it is a violation of the 4th Amendment to hold someone in jail without a warrant. Since the local jail is the one holding the inmate at the request of ICE and without the necessary warrant, they are the jurisdiction at risk of bearing the responsibility for the illegal detainment. Furthermore, courts have ruled that compliance with ICE requests is voluntary and not mandatory for the local authorities. Thus, compliance with the request is opening up the local jurisdiction to potential legal jeopardy.

Let's look into that notion further, since the fingerprints are first sent to the FBI before ICE receives them. In order for the FBI to request a hold on the inmate, they must provide a valid warrant. They can't request that the local authorities detain the individual while they open an investigation into possible criminal activities. This is why the FBI detainers are complied with while the ICE requests are often ignored. The presence of a valid warrant gives convening legal authority to detain the suspect until the FBI can pick them up. The ICE request gives no such authority, as you can read here.

Since 2014, the law on immigration detainers has changed substantially. Several federal court decisions found key aspects of ICE’s detainer system unconstitutional. In response, DHS issued memos purportedly changing the Secure Communities Program to a new regime called the Priority Enforcement Program. Nonetheless, recent court decisions have found even greater legal defects with ICE’s enforcement operations.  

For this reason and others, many counties and some cities have instructed their law enforcement agencies to decline the requests for detainment from ICE. This decision has lead to them being called "Sanctuary Cities" in political debates on the issue. So what exactly happens when ICE requests detainment of an individual in one of these counties or cities?

  • In some jurisdictions, all such requests from ICE are refused. In these cases, assuming that no other law enforcement agency has placed a valid hold on the subject, they would be released once their bail is met or the charges against them are dropped.
  • In other jurisdictions, there is limited cooperation with ICE, meaning that if the subject has a criminal record, or is on a terrorist watch list the request may be honored, in which case the subject would be held until such time as ICE can obtain the necessary warrant for deportation proceedings.
  • In jurisdictions that do comply with ICE requests, the subject will be held at the expense of the facility that is detaining him until he can be transferred to a federal facility to await immigration proceedings. In some instances, ICE will make arrangements with that facility to hold the individual at the expense of the federal government throughout the deportation process.

With this knowledge, let's look at what Trump is saying when he threatens sanctuary cities. He is demanding that they take upon themselves the risk of 4th Amendment violations and the expense of incarcerating illegal immigrants on charges that are not a violation of state law, nor within the purview of local authorities to change or enforce of their own volition. In other words, if indeed the subject in question is here illegally but ICE declines to request detainment, the local authorities have no choice but to release the illegal alien. Furthermore, if the local government were to pass a new law in regard to the status of undocumented residents within their jurisdiction, that law would be preempted by federal law. Thus, Trump is literally demanding that local jurisdictions take on the expense of enforcing a law they did not write and cannot change, and the risk of legal challenges to possible violation of 4th amendment rights, and he is doing so despite the fact that courts have ruled compliance to be voluntary.

Let's be clear here. Trump himself is not a conservative, and he has been quick to point out that the Party he is leading is not the "Conservative Party". That being said, he won the Presidency with the support of many Conservatives, and I have heard many of these people who supported him simultaneously claim the mantra of "Conservative" while supporting him. At what point did it become conservative ideology to demand that big government browbeat local jurisdictions into doing the unlegislated will of a federal bureaucracy? Even more ironic is the fact that Trump wants to enforce compliance by withholding funds from cities that refuse, and the Supreme Court has ruled that funding can only be withheld if it is relevant to the federal interest in the project. Thus, the "Law and Order Candidate" is threatening to withhold funding from law enforcement if they don't comply with his demand to ignore the 4th Amendment of the Constitution.

This is an issue that needs to be resolved at the federal level. The Government would be better served finding a way to enforce the law in a manner consistent with our Constitutional rights rather than finding a way to force local authorities to comply with their heavy handed policies. I do not support this aggression against local jurisdictions, and I can clearly state my case against it. If you disagree, feel free to comment below and tell me why.

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Steve Parry

Steve Parry

Steve Parry is the creator and host of The Axis of Stevil Show. His articles can be found here at the site. For more information, click the following link.

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