Monday, July 20, 2015

"Sanctuary Cities"

                     Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“Sanctuary Cities”
July 20, 2015

Places of sanctuary date to Biblical times. When the twelve tribes of Israel were sent to the Promised Land, the Levites were the one tribe not given a specific area. Instead their people were distributed throughout the land, in forty-eight cities that would become part of their heritage. Six of those cities were designated as places of refuge – principally for those who had committed murder unintentionally. That concept of forgiveness and protection in the Jewish faith descended to Christianity, where sinners are told they can find refuge in Christ. Consequently, churches and synagogues have long provided sanctuary.

In the United States, sanctuary cities (formed in the 1980s) were to shelter illegal immigrants from federal immigration laws. Like so many ideas coming from the Left, this one, while well intentioned, has in practice served to protect criminals as well as hapless illegal immigrants who are otherwise innocent.

What caused the phrase “sanctuary cities” to be on the lips of millions of Americans this week was the shooting death three weeks ago in San Francisco of Kathryn Steinle. While walking on Pier 14 in the Embarcadero with her father, she was struck by a bullet in the back, dying two hours later. The weapon was allegedly fired by convicted felon, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez. Ms. Steinle was a 32-year old resident of San Francisco when she was wantonly killed. Mr. Lopez-Sanchez is a Mexican national, living as an illegal alien in San Francisco. He had been deported five times for a variety of crimes. It has been reported, but not confirmed, that the gun used was stolen from a federal law-enforcement agent. San Francisco, as will come as no surprise, is a sanctuary city. Responsibility for his persistent resurfacing will be passed from the city to the state to the federals like a hot potato. History suggests no one will fess up.

This murder has further divided a partisan country. Bill O’Reilly spoke of proposing a “Kate’s Law,” which would set up mandatory penalties for deported felons who return illegally to the United States. On the other side, Raven-Symoné, co-host of CNN’s The View, suggested Ms. Steinle’s death was “part of a vast conspiracy theory to increase [Donald] Trump’s popularity.” (Donald Trump, in my opinion, is a world-class jerk, which was seen in his insulting comments about John McCain.) Nevertheless, Ms. Raven-Symoné and Mr. Trump seem cast from the same mold. Regardless, someone should remind the President that White women’s lives matter too.

The reason sanctuary cities in the U.S. came into being in the early 1980s reflected a complexity that was different from Biblical times. The offering of refuge to an immigrant today, whose only crime was crossing the border illegally, might be seen as humanitarian. But when the same offer is made to a convicted felon it becomes foolhardy and, as the Steinle family discovered, deadly dangerous. Communication technology today is such that there should be no excuse for intelligence to fall victim to a false sense of mercy. Mr. Lopez-Sanchez was a seven-time felon and five-time deportee. He was obviously not the sort of individual who would add to the quality that distinguishes America. He had his chance, and he blew it. Sanctuary city or not, the City of San Francisco, working with state and federal officials should never have allowed him back.

Los Angeles became the first city in the United States to designate itself a sanctuary city. They did so in 1979; so the concept in U.S. officialdom is relatively new, for an idea that dates back more than 2000 years. The policy was adopted to prevent police from inquiring about the immigration status of arrestees. Since that time, 276 U.S. cities have so designated themselves, including Baltimore, Cambridge, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis, New Haven, New York, San Francisco and Washington. Through his Priority Enforcement Program, the President abetted the situation. That program allows local officials to disregard ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) notifications of deportable aliens in their custody. Protecting the privacy of citizens is important in a democratic society, but so is protecting the innocent from the criminally inclined. The authorities in San Francisco saw fit to protect the privacy of Mr. Lopez-Sanchez, but not the life of Ms. Steinle. That was, obviously, wrong.

The hoopla over sanctuary cities cannot be divorced from the debate regarding immigration. As Donald Trump discovered, immigration is an issue not only sensitive, but galvanizing. In my opinion, Mr. Trump is akin to a Nova; he will fall in the polls as fast as he has risen. Nevertheless, it is an issue that he has brought to the surface. The subject of immigration has confounded every President from Reagan to Obama and will not go away. Personally, I am a fan of relatively open borders, as I believe the infusion of new blood prevents our nation from stagnating. But I would also suggest we have too many of the illegal variety and not enough of the legal. Illegal felons and convicted felons are allowed to take refuge in some of our great cities. At the same time, foreign graduates of our colleges and universities are not so easily granted citizenship, even when required to submit to rigorous background checks. To coin a phrase, there’s something wrong with this picture.

Comprehensive immigration reform is needed. While borders should be tightened, we must also be more open to those who legally want to come to our shores and who have the qualifications to better our country. Doors through which legal immigrants can enter should be wider and the process more efficient. Sanctuary cities should be allowed, but local laws and protocols should be superseded by federal immigration laws.

In Exodus Chapter 21, verses 13-15 cover the subject: “…if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbor, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he might die.” “And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand, then I shall appoint a place whither he shall flee.” Thrashing one’s way through ‘thous,’ ‘shalts’ and ‘withers’ a reader can comprehend that a harsh God, a few thousand years ago, offered sanctuary.

Sanctuaries have not always lived up to their names, as Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket discovered when one of Henry II’s men killed him on his altar in 1170. Today, the victims are too often the innocent, while too often the perpetrators are those with past convictions. Harboring refugees is one thing, allowing criminals, including killers, to roam free is quite another. Common sense should dictate laws governing sanctuary cities.



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