Sanctuary Cities are Not the Problem

Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez falls under that unfortunate class of persons the American state labels illegal immigrants. His immigration status is important because Lopez-Sanchez is accused of the June killing of a San Francisco woman, Kathyrn Steinle. Nationalists on the right and left of the American political class are aghast because Lopez-Sanchez was released from police custody in April after being charged with drug crimes. He had also been deported several times prior.

San Francisco is one of many jurisdictions across the country known as “sanctuary cities” — localities that don’t comply with federal immigration requests to detain or turn over illegal immigrants. Because of the killing, sanctuary cities are under attack once again. On Fox News, Carly Fiorina called them “a travesty,” and used them as a talking point to paint herself (and the entire right) as diametrically different from the left, who she claims roundly support sanctuary cities. Maybe Carly should talk to her fellow California empress Dianne Feinstein to find out how many on the self-described left view the issue.

It’s argued that had San Francisco cooperated with a federal detainer request, the killing would not have happened. In this particular instance, the critics may be right. ICE had a detainer request (but no warrant) for Lopez-Sanchez. He was released from police custody pursuant to San Francisco’s sanctuary city statute. The statute says San Francisco will not detain illegal immigrants for ICE absent a “violent felony” or other affirmative judicial action. Lopez-Sanchez had not previously committed a violent felony, nor was there a court order mandating the detainer.

Pointing to this particular incident as support for the enormous federal immigration apparatus is no justification, though. Neither Lopez-Sanchez’s alleged crime, nor the crimes of any other illegal immigrants, necessitate an immigration dragnet foisted on the entire United States. That dragnet is antithetical to a free society and counterproductive to real security.

If we value the right of all people to migrate regardless of where they live or where they were born, government immigration laws should be cast out wholesale beginning at the top with the abolition of the Department of Homeland Security. The very idea that a person must obtain permission from a government to be physically present in a given territory is an abomination to the principles of individual liberty, free markets, and basic human rights. As Thomas Knapp bluntly puts it, “There’s no difference in principle between a ‘national border’ and the turf claim of a street gang.” The United States is the turf belonging to the gang we call our federal government. Trespass on that turf without the gang’s permission and you are threatened with the wrath of immigration enforcement. Think you own your house or your business? Think again. The government does and they will approve or deny your guest list as they see fit.

American immigration policy is made all the more laughable when the right pretends to promote states’ rights. In the next breath they cry out for a vast system of federal law enforcement to blanket the country, from the DEA to ICE. Decentralization is only valued by the right insofar as it allows enclaves of private discrimination and corporate looting.

The government’s obsession with immigration also detracts from the overall security of Americans. Instead of using tax dollars to lift people out of poverty or to ferret out legitimate crimes, the government chooses to invest vast sums of money and energy in making sure everyone has appropriate paperwork. Far and away its biggest concern is losing track of you and the income stream you represent. If the government’s immigration efforts ceased tomorrow and all of its resources were returned to the hands of individuals and their local communities, we’d all be safer and more prosperous.

Sanctuary cities are not the problem. They are a small breath of fresh air in an otherwise highly-centralized, national security state. Chris Christie summed up the border security charade surprisingly well for a politician when he said, “I know the human spirit. I haven’t found a wall that can be built that a determined human being can’t get over, under or around.” Christie is right. If only he’d apply his analysis of a border fence to the entire mess that is National Security. The natural human desire to seek out the best life for oneself can never be snuffed out by a thuggish immigration taskforce. People will continue to thwart and evade such racist institutions, and we should celebrate their each and every rebellious attempt to do so.

Translations for this article:

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory