In the spirit of discourse and hearing both sides, the Chronicle published opposing voices on the subject of sanctuary cities today, two for, and two against the system of non-cooperation with federal customs and immigration officers. The debate would seem fairly academic at this point: City Attorney Dennis Herrera, one of the four opinion-havers, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the city in January challenging President Trump's executive order to withhold funds from Sanctuary Cities, and it's possible California will become a Sanctuary State.
Herrera writes that "We’re all better off when everyone, regardless of how they came to this country, is willing to report a crime, enroll their children in school and access vaccines." He also points to the facts: "A study found that 44 percent of Latinos — and 70 percent of undocumented immigrants — were less likely to contact police if they were the victim of a crime because they feared immigration questions."
Also on team Sanctuary Cities is Jose Antonio Vargas, CEO and founder of the immigration nonprofit Define American. "There are, on average, 35.5 fewer crimes committed per 10,000 people in sanctuary counties, according a study by the Center for American Progress. This doesn’t surprise me," Vargas writes. "Undocumented people are just like everyone else: We want to work hard, support our families and pursue life, liberty and happiness."
It's nice to hear statistics and studies and the voices of immigrants, but you know who really doesn't have a voice on this issue — who San Franciscans should really listen to, for once? United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
He wrote something especially for the Chronicle and was thoughtful enough to invoke the death of Kate Steinle.
"Kathryn Steinle might be alive today if she had not lived in a 'sanctuary city,'" writes Sessions (or one of his staff). "No matter what form these [Sanctuary City] policies take, they all have the same effect: They harm public safety, by putting numerous criminal aliens back on our streets."
President Trump, who has frequently invoked Steinle's death, even once proposed, in a campaign speech an immigration law named for her. For the record, Steinle's family has consistently asked that Trump stop politicizing and sensationalizing her death.
Dear Jeff Sessions: Thx 4 advice but pls go away & leave us alone. Immigrants make us better. Stop slandering them. https://t.co/X5jY0ydmI8— Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) April 7, 2017
The Chronicle's last voice on the subject is John Culberson, a House Republican from Texas. He leads with Kate Steinle's death, too, and I'll spare repeating his arguments here.
The most useful aspect of this op-ed quartet is that the four parties each tried to define Sanctuary Cities. Their thoughts:
Jeff Sessions: Is not defined. The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for the definition and has not yet published one.
John Culberson: Violates 8 U.S. Code 1373 by refusing to fully share information with immigration enforcement agencies.
Dennis Herrera: Chooses to focus its resources on local priorities instead of using limited resources to enforce federal immigration law.
Jose Antonio Vargas: Protects its residents, including undocumented residents, so everyone can approach law enforcement officers without fear of arrest.