From our vantage point in Manchester, New Hampshire, we see and hear more of and from presidential candidates than most of the rest of the country. With that experience over quadrennial election cycles, we learn to take much of the election-season discourse with large grains of salt. As the primary continues to unfold to the suprise of many pundits, some Republican contenders continue to leverage anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy proposals in an effort to garner attention in a crowded field. Two of the more vocal anti-immigrationists - Donald Trump and Ben Carson - have expressed unbridled anti-immigrant sentiment. In the meantime, Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana spearheaded a Senate bill to withhold federal law enforcment funding from so-called "sanctuary cities". To no one's surprise, Sen. Ted Cruz signed onto the effort. Somewhat more surprisingly, though, so did Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, once a promising advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. The bill failed to garner the necessary votes yesterday (October 20th), but the issue, and the myriad unfounded characterizations which fuel it, will continue to be part of the GOP presidential campaign.
Simply put, "sanctuary cities" choose to allow undocumented residents to live in peace within their borders. These cities recognize that most undocumented individuals have come to the United States to work, get an education, be with their families, and otherwise pursue the American Dream. Sanctuary cities also realize that local law enforcement works much more effectively when all residents feel free to speak with police when they are victims of or witnesses to criminal activity. However, the tragic killing in July of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco, allegedly by an undocumented Mexican national, renewed scrutiny of sanctuary cities. Republicans have sought to link the sanctuary policy with heightened crime rates, despite no data to show any such correlation. As the New York Times recently noted, though, since "crackdowns on sanctuary cities seek to thwart sound law-enforcement policies and the integration of immigrants, they are an invitation to more crime and mayhem, not less".
Over 300 communities self-identify as sanctuary cities, and they serve to stand in - albeit imperfectly - for our continued lack of thoughtful, humane immigration reform. It would seem that the party which commonly extols the virtues of "local control" might defer to the sound judgment of how communities choose to police themselves.