BY ZACHARY PERROTTA
Sanctuary policies; pretty ironic, right? Besides being explicitly against federal law, it’s also apparent that these initiatives, though they are designed with the intention of defending undocumented immigrants from persecution, only subjugate and insulate them within communities which actively work against their best interests.
What’s a sanctuary policy? Well, its definition isn’t clear. Generally speaking, they indicate that a city is in support of and are willing to hide undocumented immigrants from the watchful eyes of the federal government. Specifically, they either prevent police from asking about immigration status during routine stops, or from detaining an individual due to immigration status alone.
These policies literally have no legal right to exist. Look towards the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, or the IIRIRA. Section 642 of this piece of legislation explicitly requires that “states and localities may not adopt policies… [prohibiting] employees from communicating with the [Department of Homeland Security] regarding the immigration status of individuals.” New York City challenged this provision in court, yet the law survived, and the city was ordered to rescind its sanctuary policy.
However, current law does have its limitations, especially when discussing the ideas behind the rules along with the legal rhetoric which surrounds their implementation. For instance, many such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would argue that it is permissible to violate unjust laws, and that argument works well to combat this precedent. Alternatively, one could take the route of legality and say that many rulings such as this will eventually fall. Or, because this decision finds its genesis in New York, even though it is the most recent precedent on the subject, it can be argued that it doesn’t apply to the entire nation.
These self-imposed regulations, however, also harm the very immigrants which they seek to defend. In fact, by preventing our police departments from lobbing queries regarding immigration status and from detaining people based on immigration status, we are only enabling and perpetuating gang culture. Big clarification: no, not all undocumented immigrants are gang members. Further, most undocumented immigrants which this pertains to are the victims of either gang activity or of sneaky recruitment tactics which prey upon poverty.
The primary issue with gangsters is that they are not easy to arrest. To the contrary, while many are infamous for their offenses there is often minimal to no evidence on hand to prove the allegations. The big point is that while this evidence can be difficult to find, law enforcement can often utilize criminals immigration status as a pretense to arrest and interrogate them to expose new leads and evidence. In sanctuary cities, these actions are not permissible, and that only provides protection for the gangs which would otherwise be defeated.
Take the most strong example, the MS13 gang, which has been deemed by the U.S. Department of Justice to be an international criminal organization with over 70,000 members. This group is well known for being one of the primary ways through which undocumented immigrants, particularly from El Salvador, are smuggled into the U.S. Like many gangs; they offer membership and the guarantee of service as a form of payment. This arrangement preys upon the poverty of the immigrants because first, MS13 knows that most recipients cannot pay in cash, and second, that they can lock these immigrants into continuous service by threatening violence upon those who abandon the gang along with their families.
The recruitment loop only magnifies from here. If recruits stay in these organizations, they increasingly integrate gang culture into youth culture, the Chicago Community Policing Evaluation Consortium asserted, furthering that even children not in gangs emulate their attitudes, dress, and self-presentation.
The result is a community in thrall with gang activity on all levels, and that is particularly problematic considering the functions of gangs such as MS13. Along with their business involving smuggling not only of undocumented immigrants but illegal and often dangerous drugs, groups like MS13 engage in the facilitation of child prostitution rings, hired killings, and of course, high-level thievery.
Look, the lesson here is not to fully eliminate sanctuary policies. Humans are humans and, when it comes down to it, we must acknowledge that these immigrants came here seeking a better life and cannot live to endure an overloaded legal immigration process. Instead, let’s advocate for reform. Give police officers the authority to determine which undocumented immigrants pose a danger, and oversee the departments in doing so effectively and efficiently. Compromise reform, don’t eliminate the policy, legislate to mend its wounds.