Recently, President Trump signed an executive order attempting to pull funding from so-called sanctuary cities which protect immigrants from deportation. Although libertarians of course wish for federal funding to be withheld from all areas of life, this suspect targeting is not to be celebrated as some expansion of liberty.
While these areas are portrayed by some on the right as dystopian safe harbors for felons, this is far from the truth. Furthermore, the localities’ decisions to not enforce federal immigration laws are consistent with the Tenth Amendment, thus allowing government at the most local levels to make the most important decisions.
A brilliant synopsis by libertarian icon and legal scholar Judge Andrew Napolitano identifies “sanctuary cities” as such:
The term “sanctuary cities” is not a legal term, but it has been applied by those in government and the media to describe municipalities that offer expanded social services to the undocumented and decline to help the feds find them — including the case of Chicago’s offering undocumented immigrants money for legal fees to resist federal deportation. As unwise as these expenditures may be by cities that are essentially bankrupt and rely on federal largesse in order to remain in the black, they are not unlawful. Cities and towns are free to expand the availability of social services however they please, taking into account the local political climate.
As Napolitano later points out, the principles of federalism dictates to states and localities the power to decide on budgeting. Otherwise, “the federal government could effectively eradicate the sovereignty of the states or even bankrupt them by forcing them to spend their tax dollars enforcing federal law or paying for federal programs.”
Reason‘s Zach Weissmueller explains that these cities are perhaps even safer than other cities who do not abide by such policies, and in fact make policing easier. As he states in the video below, 45% of Hispanics state that immigration concerns have affected their willingness to cooperate in criminal investigations, and 45% also state that their immigration concerns affect their likelihood of reporting a crime. This is in addition to the fact that there is no cognizable difference in dangerous crime between similarly-sized sanctuary and non-sanctuary cities.
Additionally, much of the federal funding which will be suspended from these cities by the Trump Administration would otherwise be directed toward law enforcement and anti-terrorism measures, thus being completely counterproductive to the stated goal.
Simply put, when these citizens do not fear the interference of federal immigration agencies, they are able to feel more trust in law enforcement so that all can be safer. This is all on top of the repeated findings that immigrants are far less likely to commit crime than native-born Americans.
President Trump and his supporters may believe that the executive order defunding sanctuary cities is necessary and just, but the reality of the situation is much different. These areas are key examples of federalism and help to keep people of all walks of life safe from crime.