Should 'sanctuary cities' be required to take in migrants?


Fact Box

  • The Center for Immigration Studies defines a 'sanctuary' state or city as a jurisdiction that has adopted 'laws, ordinances, regulations, resolutions, policies, or other practices that obstruct immigration enforcement and shield criminals from ICE.' 
  • As of July 2023, the following US states feature sanctuary cities: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.
  • US Customs & Border Protection reports that from October 2022 through September 2023, there have been over 2.2 million encounters with migrants at the southwest land border. 
  • A 2023 Gallup Poll revealed that 68% of Americans are “dissatisfied” with US immigration, and of those, 64% “want immigration decreased.”

Luke (Yes)

The migrant debacle at Martha's Vineyard and New York declaring a state of emergency over receiving a small influx of illegal migrants (compared to border towns) highlights the ease of making a statement and the difficulty of following through on one's ideals. Both states have claimed to be ‘sanctuary cities’ for illegal aliens. As then-candidate for the US Senate, Peggy Hubbard, aptly stated, 'Martha's Vineyard declared itself as a sanctuary city until the buses arrived.' The fiasco ended with the calling up of the National Guard in Massachusetts to handle the issue. New York has requested $1 billion in federal government assistance to handle around 31,000 ‘asylum seekers.’ But compared to the actual crisis and strained resources America's border cities have endured under Biden's open border policies, New England's plight is laughable; it’s right they’re held accountable for the policies and politicians they promote.

Cities claiming 'sanctuary' (meaning 'a place of refuge and protection'), it is reasonable to expect they willingly take as many migrants as they can. If an alleged sanctuary city has no migrants, accepts no migrants, and/or cannot protect and support migrants, the term 'sanctuary' is little more than a slogan and a misleading advertisement. All that is being asked is that these cities hold up to their own claims. If 'sanctuary' cities do not do this, it reveals their hypocrisy, which is not a victimless crime as it leaves migrants vulnerable and exposed to dangers. Also, with the border states being overwhelmed by record numbers of migrant crossings, sanctuary cities must pitch in to help alleviate the continuing border crisis. Because sanctuary cities have claimed they are willing to help migrants, sanctuary cities should then be required to take in migrants or find a new slogan. 

Andrew (No)

In America, we simply do not allow the government to decide where people live, whether they are natural-born citizens, immigrants, or undocumented. Allowing the government to force any group of people into a specific locale is a slippery slope. Should the government then make cities in tobacco-producing regions accept smokers? Should the government make Texas and Florida accept only Republican voters just because those views align with their elected representation? The answer is obviously no. Individuals will always be drawn to regions that fit their needs and views well. It makes sense for migrants to be drawn to cities that are less willing to criminalize their existence, especially since decriminalizing their existence has been proven to increase health outcomes without increasing crime rates. 

Besides the improper and gross overreach of government bodies that would allow this to occur, it is also logistically impossible. What is a sanctuary city in the first place? It's really just a colloquial term for a city that doesn't aggressively pursue migrants. There isn't a legal definition for what a sanctuary city is. Also, how the government would find, identify, and then force the relocation of undocumented migrants should leave us all feeling nervous. The federal government cannot force cities to accept people they cannot find and identify.

Finally, the government should be putting its efforts into finally making overdue reforms to our antiquated immigration system, including the formation of a legal path to citizenship for those who are currently undocumented within our borders. Forcing certain cities to accept them, busing them around, and other political stunts are cruel, inhumane, and a waste of effort.

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