Sanc­tu­ary cities vs. hide­outs

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Cal Thomas

In bib­li­cal times, a sanc­tu­ary city was a place where some­one who had com­mit­ted un­in­ten­tional man­slaugh­ter could find refuge from “the avenger of blood.” If the of­fender left the sanc­tu­ary city, he could be set upon by a rel­a­tive of the dead per­son and killed. No sanc­tu­ary was avail­able to any­one who com­mit­ted mur­der with mal­ice afore­thought.

Mod­ern sanc­tu­ary cities are less re­flec­tive of their an­cient name­sakes and more like the hide­outs es­tab­lished by train rob­bers and cat­tle rustlers dur­ing the days of the Wild West, as the cur­rent sanc­tu­ary city move­ment shields men and women who have bro­ken fed­eral law to reach the United States.

Threats by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to hold back fed­eral money from cities that har­bor il­le­gal im­mi­grants show some prom­ise. In July, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions an­nounced new im­mi­gra­tion com­pli­ance requirements for fed­eral grant pro­grams, in­clud­ing man­dates that state and lo­cal en­ti­ties must al­low fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion ac­cess to de­ten­tion fa­cil­i­ties and pro­vide 48 hours’ no­tice be­fore au­thor­i­ties re­lease an il­le­gal im­mi­grant wanted by fed­eral au­thor­i­ties. If states com­ply, they get the grants. If they do not, they get noth­ing.

Mi­ami-Dade County in Florida and Clark County in Ne­vada have changed their minds about har­bor­ing law­break­ers. The Depart­ment of Jus­tice has sent let­ters to both coun­ties cer­ti­fy­ing that they are now in com­pli­ance with the law and are now cleared for fed­eral grants.

Other sanc­tu­ary cities are not so co­op­er­a­tive. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has filed a law­suit against the Depart­ment of Jus­tice for threat­en­ing to with­hold fed­eral funds ear­marked for lo­cal law en­force­ment. Given the shoot­ing gallery Chicago has be­come, it’s dif­fi­cult to see how more money will im­prove safety, es­pe­cially on the city’s South Side, where an av­er­age week­end of vi­o­lence of­ten pro­duces more ca­su­al­ties than in Afghanistan.

In Wash­ing­ton, where to­day’s “prin­ci­pled stand” can quickly be for­got­ten, Democrats have changed their view about an im­mi­gra­tion plan they con­sis­tently sup­ported for a decade. Democrats in Congress pre­vi­ously fa­vored a pol­icy that would have es­tab­lished a points sys­tem for se­lect­ing le­gal im­mi­grants. Now that Pres­i­dent Trump fa­vors such a sys­tem, based on merit, Democrats sud­denly op­pose it. For such a U-turn the word “hypocrisy” was in­vented, but the left doesn’t care. They are about votes and win­ning elec­tions, not ac­tu­ally fix­ing an im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem every­one agrees is bro­ken and needs re­pair.

Un­der reg­u­la­tions con­cern­ing cities of refuge es­tab­lished in the Book of Num­bers (35:25) and the code of the Levitical priest­hood, once an in­di­vid­ual had claimed asy­lum, he had to be taken from the city to stand trial. If he was found in­no­cent, he was re­turned un­der guard to the city in which he had claimed asy­lum. When the high priest died, the per­son could re­turn to his prop­erty.

That is a far cry from what mod­ern may­ors and gov­er­nors want for their il­le­gal im­mi­grants. For them there is to be no ar­rest, no charge and no trial. Some Mary­land ju­ris­dic­tions are talk­ing about adding more lo­cal­i­ties to those that al­ready al­low un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants to vote in lo­cal elec­tions. It won’t be long be­fore there are de­mands that they be al­lowed to vote in fed­eral elec­tions, which ap­pears to be the ob­jec­tive of many Democrats who want and need the votes. They’d likely get them too, once un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants be­come de­pen­dent on govern­ment pro­grams.

Name a fed­eral law you could get away with break­ing. Could you find “sanc­tu­ary” away from the govern­ment’s long arm?

The law­suit by Chicago’s mayor will likely reach the Supreme Court. That is what makes the el­e­va­tion of Neil Gor­such to that high bench so crit­i­cal. Cal Thomas is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist. His lat­est book is “What Works: Com­mon Sense So­lu­tions for a Stronger Amer­ica” (Zon­der­van, 2014).

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