Views on the News: Sanctuary Cities
On April 25, President Trump’s proposal to reduce funding to sanctuary cities was denied by a judge in San Francisco on the basis of it being unconstitutional, according to an April 25, New York times article. If enacted, the order would force the city to comply with federal immigration laws at the risk of losing over $1 billion in funding. As a result, San Francisco, among other cities, has sued Trump’s administration. What do you think of the proposal and the ability to regulate immigration policy in a sanctuary city?
I think that sanctuary cities are emerging, because many have a sense that people without documentation are being unfairly vilified. The popular narrative is that immigrants are dangerous or take U.S. jobs. Yet evidence suggests that undocumented immigrants are far less likely than U.S. citizens to be engaged in criminal behavior, and that they often do jobs U.S. citizens are unwilling to do. Why don’t these facts matter? Why are so many afraid of our undocumented neighbors, the vast majority of whom work, pay taxes and peacefully live in our communities? I think the root is a fear of the Other that, in turn, feeds an already existing empathy gap among a large number of our population. The sanctuary city movement is trying to fill this gap. It pricks our collective conscience to remember that ICE raids affect real people, split up real families and terrorize real communities.
Mark Brimhall-Vargas is the Chief Diversity Officer of Brandeis University.
Brian Fried (POL)
Immigration law is the purview of the federal government. However, our government has long had a policy of de jure prohibition of undocumented immigrants and de facto acceptance. Such individuals regularly work long hours in arduous jobs, and employers and consumers have long reaped the benefit of their labor. Their children often are U.S. citizens with little knowledge of their parent’s country of origin. One could debate local governments’ responsibility to undocumented residents, but it is hard to imagine how these governments could serve their children without providing an environment where their parents can lead productive lives and be active in the community. While immigrants may harm the economic opportunities of some members our society, addressing the needs of such individuals seems like a more rational response to this harm. Similarly, it seems reasonable that any decisions on deportation should consider the human cost to all of those affected, included immigrants’ children and the communities in which they often are well-established.
Prof. Brian Fried (POL) is a Florence Levy Kay Fellow in Comparative Politics of the Developing World. He also teaches in Latin American and Latino Studies.
Noah Seligman ’18
Much of the money that many of these “sanctuary cities” receive is certainly contingent on some demands from the federal government, such as the promise to improve infrastructure with the funds, or allocate it for other public works. Trump’s demands, if you look at them from a contractual perspective, don’t make sense. It would be like me saying, “I will sign this contract that says I will give you X dollars a year if you do Y,” one year and then next year saying, “For you to continue getting X dollars you must also do Z in addition to Y.” This would not be defensible in court simply because Y was not included in the original contract that was signed initially. The landmark Supreme Court case South Dakota v. Dole concluded that “federal conditions have to be reasonable and related to the programs they are attached to.” Perhaps Trump can defund certain chunks of the money being given, but it seems unlikely that he will be able to defund “sanctuary cities” across the board.
Noah Seligman ’18 is president of the Brandeis Pre-Law Society.
Alex Friedman ’19
The federal government has a long history of using federal funds as a carrot-stick method of getting local authorities to comply with its agenda when it hasn't a legal leg to stand on. The method by which the Trump administration tried to bend local authorities to its will was unconstitutional because, according to Judge Orrick, it proposed to change formulas lawfully set by Congress. Hypocritically, in his attempt to force states to comply with the law on the books, Trump tried to change a different law on the books. Slightly less importantly, he is also trampling on the usual Republican mantra of federalism and state’s rights, yet I hear no unhappy sounds from our right-wing party. Perhaps it is because this time the executive authority is being used to put people in jail rather than give poor people healthcare. I’m not a legal scholar, but I’m pretty sure that our federalist constitution only requires that local law authorities enforce the law that is within their jurisdiction, with some exceptions. Regardless, turning local law enforcement agents into immigration officers directs resources away from local crime fighting and toward holding suspected illegal immigrants, which makes communities less safe.
Alex Friedman ’19 is a double major in Politics and Business.