Are Officials in Sanctuary Cities Breaking the Law by Not providing Information to the Federal Government?

Are Officials in Sanctuary Cities Breaking the Law by Not providing Information to the Federal Government?

RUNNING HEAD: SANCTUARY CITIES 1

SANCTUARY CITIES 6

Are Officials in Sanctuary Cities Breaking the Law by Not providing Information to the Federal Government?

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Are Officials in Sanctuary Cities Breaking the Law by Not providing Information to the Federal Government?

Introduction

The failure by sanctuary cities to provide needed information to the federal government about immigrants and other suspects has become a controversial topic in the recent past and has attracted a lot of debate about the legality of these actions. In the defense of their failure to cooperate, sanctuary cities simply fail to allocate resources which they deem to be scarce to the collection of information about illegal immigrants and detaining where necessary, as a way of complying with federal law. On the other hand, the federal law is considered to be supreme over all state and local government laws and policies, meaning the failure to comply with them is illegal. The main issue, however, is the local state laws are not in clear violation of federal laws, as there are no local states that advocate for the failure to provide needed information about immigrants. Sanctuary cities like San Fransisco, for example, believe they are acting in their best interests by failing to allocate resources needed to collect information about immigrants and hand it over to the federal government. The issue is controversial since the federal government has no means of forcing individual states to use their resources to collect this information, meaning resource constrained cities can still retain the practice. For sanctuary cities, both the collection of information about undocumented immigrants and the detention of suspected violators of immigration law is costly and unnecessary, and should solely be the responsibility of the federal government. Resources in most sanctuary cities are usually limited, and officials have to prioritize their use if they are to act in the best interests of the residents. Since no clear laws have been violated by these states and their actions, there are no legal means through which they can be charged for it. Unless new legislation is enacted that explicitly requires each city and state to comply without failure to all requests for information about immigrants from the federal government. This paper analyzes the legality of the position taken by sanctuary cities and how the federal government can identify ways of enforcing compliance.

Literature Review

In the recent past, the failure by sanctuary cities to aggressively seek and surrender information about immigrants to the federal government has become a controversial subject. Due to the absence of an effective legal mechanism that can hold them liable, the practice is set to continue unabated, much to the distress of immigration officials who could use this information. In this literature review, an analysis of key reasons for the practice and possible remedies is made.

According to Lee (2017), the concept of sanctuary cities still remains controversial due to the fact that there is no legal definition of sanctuary cities and what encompasses one. A city is considered to be a sanctuary city when it has rules or policies that do not require city officials to report undocumented immigrants to the federal government or detain them where it is clear they are in violation of immigration laws. Due to the absence of federal regulations on the issue that would have otherwise required cities to comply with federal immigration requirements for reporting, cities are at liberty on whether or not they will comply with reporting requirements. They, therefore, get to choose whether or not to provide information to the federal government about immigrants, even in cases where they may have this information.

According to Yang (2018), recent changes in immigration laws have put sanctuary cities in the spotlight. Federal agencies that are actively working to eliminate illegal immigration have accused these cities of willful obstruction them from carrying out their mandate by failing to provide needed information. This claim, however, has no legal backing due to the absence of federal laws that obligate cities to spend resources in identifying and detaining illegal immigrants. Each city is therefore at liberty to select whether or not they will comply. Although there are some legal provisions that require states and local government to support the activities of immigration agencies, these laws are general in nature and cannot be used to hold individual states accountable for failing to comply (Yang, 2018).

Sanctuary cities willfully adopt policing practices that cannot effectively collect information about illegal immigrants (Jarrett, 2017). When law enforcement officers in these cities arrest illegal immigrants for a violation that would qualify them for deportation, they fail to report these incidents to the federal government. They also do not maintain the capacity that is required to routinely collect information about illegal immigrants that would interest immigration authorities. Unfortunately for federal agencies, none of these are in violation of any laws, as there is no law that requires states and cities not to adopt such practices. The scarcity of resources is considered to be the main reason why sanctuary cities adopt such policies. Due to the presence of much more pressing concerns, states have to prioritize their resources and focus on what is important and that can have an immediate impact. Sanctuary cities clearly have the right to adopt policies that indirectly protect illegal immigrants from the federal government. Legally they cannot be held liable, as the constitution also protects states and cities from being forced to carry out the wishes of the federal government. Whether or not these policies are in the best interests of the country as a whole and the cities concerned is however not clear.

Due to the controversial nature of the issue and the fact that federal government agencies have begun to feel powerless about their control over the issue. New ways through which states and cities can be held liable where they willfully protect illegal immigrants are being devised. According to Lynch and Rosenberg (2017), the new administration id identifying ways of punishing states that willfully fail to comply with immigration policies. The withdrawal of federal grants and the reduction of other forms of federal funding are among the options being considered by the state.

In conclusion, states and cities that have in place policies that indirectly protect illegal immigrants are not in violation of any federal laws. They legally have the right to adopt such policies without having to consult the federal government. Due to the fact that these policies enable them to prioritize the use of their resources and focus on more important issues they cannot be forced by the federal immigration authorities to dedicate resources to the collection of information on illegal immigrants. Sanctuary cities generally do not require law enforcement officers to collect information from illegal immigrants in case they interact, nor provide any information to the federal government that may be valuable to immigration authorities. Due to the controversial nature of the issue, the federal government is, however, putting pressure on states and cities to comply with the federal immigration policy and has threated to reduce the funding of those that will not.

References Jarrett, G. (2017). Gregg Jarrett: Sanctuary cities won’t find refuge in law. Retrieved from Foxnews: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/03/28/gregg-jarrett-sanctuary-cities-wont-find-refuge-in-law.html Lee, M. Y. (2017). The White House’s claim that ‘sanctuary’ cities are violating the law. Retrieved from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/04/28/the-white-houses-claim-that-sanctuary-cities-are-violating-the-law/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.f4c8469cef27 Lynch, S. N., & Rosenberg, M. (2017). Four U.S. ‘sanctuary cities’ may be violating law: U.S. Attorney General. Retrieved from Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-sanctuary/four-u-s-sanctuary-cities-may-be-violating-law-u-s-attorney-general-idUSKBN1CH20R Yang, J. (2018). Do Sanctuary Cities Violate the Law. Retrieved from Penn Undergraduate Law Journal: https://www.pulj.org/the-roundtable/do-sanctuary-cities-violate-the-law


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