This November, Humboldt County voters will have the opportunity to pass Measure K, which will remove any active involvement by county authorities in federal immigration enforcement.
Sanctuary is a much misunderstood and misrepresented concept. It does not interfere with immigration enforcement. It simply prohibits the dedication of local resources to unfunded mandates which serve only to prop up scapegoating national politics. The threat by ICE, the president, and other aspects of the federal government to punish Sanctuary jurisdictions violates the spirit and letter of the 10th Amendment and state sovereignty.
The “voluntary” Joint Task Forces being pushed by federal statute and politics become mandatory if states and local jurisdictions are forced to participate either due to threats of funding cut-offs or claims that laws which refuse the cooperation are illegal. And to date, all attempts to mandate local involvement in immigration enforcement have been ruled unconstitutional.
It is true that the federal government has Constitutional primacy when it comes to immigration law. States and local jurisdictions cannot interfere with lawful federal immigration enforcement. But as established by court case in the 19th century pertaining to the Fugitive Slave Laws, states are under no obligation to participate in the task forces. ICE has its job and local authorities have theirs.
Moreover, the very federal statutes which establish the Voluntary Task Forces explicitly state that no reimbursement shall be made to local jurisdictions which expend local resources to those efforts. The price tag is often significant. The conservatives of our communities have often lamented the centralization of political power in Washington, D.C. (and Sacramento) which requires actions of local governments sans funding. Nothing in a Sanctuary ordinance prevents local law enforcement from consulting with ICE if separate crime is involved.
But Measure K offers much more than most Sanctuary ordinances. There are numerous families which include non-citizen parents with naturally born citizen children. Among other things, the Sanctuary Measure would mandate parental decision-making rights for those parents separated from their children by arrest and/or deportation.
Whatever feelings one may have about the parents’ choices in entry to the country, these families are now integral to local communities and the welfare and successful upbringing of the children are of paramount importance. Preventing the break-up of families is essential as a matter of values, but also community interest.
The media and certain political figures have placed ridiculous emphasis on “criminals, drug dealers, and rapists” to quote one famous politician. But this refers to an extremely small subset of the undocumented immigrant population as statistically speaking a foreign-born non-citizen resident, whether documented or undocumented, is less likely to commit any crime – probably because they have much more to lose than a citizen.
Most undocumented residents are here to work. You do business with them directly or indirectly every day. They are your coworkers. Your neighbors. They may be your friends. Their children attend school with yours. You have cheered at school and youth sport events alongside undocumented parents of your children’s teammates.
Some of your friends may be undocumented – it’s not something people talk about. They may be Latino, Asian, European or Canadian. They each have an individual story which accounts for their undocumented status, and their explanations may change hearts as to whether they are people who disrespect the law. Necessity, dreams, children and other individual circumstances often generate difficult choices.
In the meantime, it is important to your own interests that every member of a community feel safe to contact the police to report a crime, fire or other emergency.
It is important to your health that everyone obtain medical evaluation and treatment when ill. It is important that the millions who live here undocumented obtain education, job training, and feel they have a stake in the communities of which they are a part.
Conservatives locally have objected to local regulations and general plans because they do not pertain to “the reality on the ground.” Whether you support the choices these millions of individuals have made, the “reality on the ground” is that they are here and integral to your community. If they were to disappear tomorrow, you would feel the consequences of the loss – to economy, society, and community.
And they are part of your community. When one part of a community is compromised, the whole community is compromised. Please vote yes on Measure K as an affirmation of community.
Eric V. Kirk is an attorney, skeptic and radio host.