Sanctuary Cities and States: The Only Legal Choice

By Ivan Light

Let the Feds (under Trump) pursue and pay for their own projects:  other jurisdictions have no legal authority to enforce Federal law.

If one listened to the GOP, one would think there is something illegal about sanctuary cities and states. People who repeat that baloney ought to read the US Constitution, which assigns all authority over immigration to the federal government. Federal authority includes making immigration laws but also enforcing immigration laws. The federal government is the only agency legally authorized to enforce immigration law.  States are not authorized; cities are not authorized. So, if Trump asks states and cities to enforce immigration laws, he is asking them to enforce laws that, under the Constitution, they lack legal authority to enforce. Ask the FBI to enforce the California highway code in their spare time, and you will hear a resounding, “Hell, no.” The FBI exists to enforce federal law, and has no authority to enforce California’s highway code nor, frankly, do they have spare time in which to do it, nor is it the federal government’s responsibility to pay for the enforcement of California’s highway code.

What is worse, during the presidential election campaign, Trump promised that, if elected, he would deport 11.5 million illegal immigrants. For six months during that campaign, Democrats pointed out again and again, time after time, that doing so would be so expensive that Americans would not want to pay the bill. Estimates reached a trillion dollars. Trump ignored that Democratic reply. Now as POTUS, stuck with his own election pledge, Trump demands that states and cities enforce immigration laws at their expense.  In other words, Trump asks states and cities to add the huge costs of enforcing federal laws to their existing budgets.

Why can’t the federal government enforce its own laws? It’s their job.  The answer is obvious. The federal government cannot afford to deport 11.5 million immigrants without massive increases in taxation or the national debt. The Republicans in Congress won’t pass such unpopular measures. So they join Trump in asking states and cities to pick up the costs and when they decline, the Republicans and Trump affect shock and outrage.

Declaring a sanctuary city or state just means that municipal and state police enforce municipal and state laws over which they have authority. Asked to enforce immigration laws, they decline. This policy makes perfect legal and fiscal sense. A sanctuary city or state does not interfere with the federal government’s enforcement of federal laws nor with its right to pay for its deportation policy from taxes levied on federal taxpayers. Go right ahead, federal government! Deport all those people. But you pay for it. It's your job.  That’s what it means to declare a sanctuary city or state.

If that was not enough to convince you, consider this. California voted overwhelmingly against Trump, and California has more illegal immigrants than any other state. If the state of California and its cities picked up the cost of enforcing Trump’s massive deportation policy, they would be enforcing a law that is not their responsibility to enforce, that it is not their responsibility to pay for, and that they disapproved in the first place.  Enforcing Trump’s deportation policy, California also would have the biggest bill of any state. To Trump's request California has wisely said NO.  

Bottom line: Trump cannot keep the preposterous policy promises he made during the election campaign.  The emperor has no clothes, and there is now no hiding the naked truth from the voters.