Sanctuary Cities - The Importance of Local Government

On his fifth day in office, Trump signed an executive order that would punish local governments that did not comply with federal authorities by handing over arrested immigrants. This legislation was targeting "sanctuary cities," a somewhat self-explanatory concept but one that brings to light several key issues we will face over the next four years. 

First, what is the definition of a sanctuary city? Sanctuary cities are places "that limit how local law enforcement can cooperate with federal immigration agents." Basically, these are cities or counties that have determined they will have limited cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security when it comes to immigrant arrests. Specifically, at the city level, this usually means local officials don't inquire about a person's immigration status when making an arrest. 

Trump and other Congressional Republicans don't like this because they basically want local law enforcement to act as a Deportation force. Their argument is that sanctuary policies allow criminals to walk when, if they were deported, it could have prevented further crimes. Local authorities have responded by utilizing sanctuary city policies because they rightly don't think their job is to act as a Gestappo-like deportation force. 

So the subject of sanctuary cities brings to light several key issues: the power of local government, the rising conflict between local and federal authority, and the danger of Trump's policies towards immigration. The Trump era has brought a renewed importance of local government, something he fundamentally does not understand. As of February, 2017, 5 states had laws that limit local cooperation with federal authorities (Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Oregon, and California). Nationwide, 633 counties had sanctuary city policies that emphasized the authority of local law enforcement over Homeland Security. 

This brings us to federalism - a term Trump has probably never heard. Federalism is the idea that states and local government retain sovereign power and that therefore Congress and the President has a limited amount of control. Federal government must rely on state's cooperation to enforce policy, but states have the authority to not enforce policy that they feel is unconstitutional. Sanctuary cities are the response to the unconstitutional demands of the Trump administration when it comes to immigration. 

Conclusion: sanctuary cities are examples of the resistance of local government to the unconstitutional demands of the Trump administration and should be supported locally and statewide. Learn about the nearest sanctuary city to you and what you can do to help. 

Greer Clem