The issue of sanctuary cities has seemingly popped up out of nowhere late in the 2016 election season. Donald Trump campaigned against sanctuary cities and vowed to cut their funding. Then the unexpected happened: Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States and Republicans found themselves with majorities in both the House and Senate, as well as many state legislatures and governorships. The Republican Party is in in control and they are staunchly against sanctuary cities. With a President in Donald Trump and an Attorney General in Jeff Sessions ready to enforce “law and order,” we would expect the crackdown of sanctuary cities to be swift. Instead we are seeing an increase in cities, states, and colleges attempting to declare or declaring themselves “sanctuaries” or instituting sanctuary-like policy.
So why not just pass a law or an executive order that makes declaration of sanctuary status to be illegal, meaning the politicians who pass these policies or sheriffs who implement these policies would face criminal prosecution, and/or the cities should face monetary fines for declaring sanctuary status? It seems so simple even the slow-moving dinosaurs in Washington, D.C. could get this through in an instant. When things seem simple, they aren’t so.
The reason is the most simple of them all: “Sanctuary” isn’t a legal term in the sense these cities and institutions are attempting to use it. You can slap “sanctuary” on a city just like you can slap lipstick on a pig, nothing changes. So what is the legal definition of “sanctuary? According to Legal-Dictionary
SANCTUARY. A place of refuge, where the process of the law cannot be executed.
2. Sanctuaries may be divided into religious and civil. The former were very common in Europe; religious houses affording protection from arrest to all persons, whether accused of crime, or pursued for debt. This kind was never known in the United States.
3. Civil sanctuary, or that protection which is afforded to a man by his own house, was always respected in this country. The house protects the owner from the service of all civil process in the first instance but not if he is once lawfully arrested and takes refuge in his own house. Vide Door;House.
4. No place affords protection from arrest in criminal cases; a man may, therefore, be arrested in his own house in such cases, and the doors may be broken for the purpose of making the arrest. Vide Arrest in criminal cases.
The legal definition of sanctuary actually says the opposite of what these cities are attempting to do. Sanctuary does not offer protection for criminals fleeing. As I have said on Twitter, the crime rate among illegal immigrants is 100%, because by immigrating illegally they are committing a crime. I’ve met many illegal immigrants and for the most part they are nice and hard-working people, they wouldn’t fit the mold your mind may paint a a “criminal.” But in the eyes of the law these folks are criminals, and therefore technically “fleeing” the enforcement of the law at all times. No matter how law enforcement arrests, detains, and pursues these criminals, they are well within their rights to do so as long as Constitutional rights are not violated.
— Justin Farrell ⚽ (@HalseyJustin25) April 2, 2017
Granting sanctuary status to a city, state, or institution will change nothing in the eyes of the law. It is simply symbolic. If the federal government did pass a law banning cities, states, and institutions from declaring themselves sanctuaries, then seconds later these “sanctuaries” would simply rescind the title and implement their sanctuary policies. And that is where the legal mucky-muck lies. What determines a sanctuary policy? Can these sanctuary policies avoid federal punishment or simply notice by just being memorandums or directives instead of passed law or orders? These legal questions are the reason that the federal government and President Trump have not created an outright ban on sanctuary cities. Since sanctuary cities are a fairly new concept, patterns have yet to be formed that will reveal the similarity between policies. The federal government will want to play the waiting game and take down most sanctuary cities, states, and institutions with one fell swoop. Otherwise it will be a hopeless game of whack-a-mole, a game the federal government regularly falls behind in. The speed of our legal system is quite slow, so every move made by the federal government must be as effective as possible and iron-clad legally to avoid being help in courts.
The sanctuary city crackdown is going to be a long legal battle with little in the way of precedent. For now the current plan to remove federal funds from those instituting sanctuary-like policies is the best way to go in order to discourage these policies from being implemented. Until teams of overpaid lawyers have gone through all ways that sanctuary cities can be outlawed, no legal way to shut them down should be pursued.