How Sanctuary Cities and States Affect Illegal Immigration

Published on March 30th, 2023

How Sanctuary Cities and States Affect Illegal Immigration

Illegal immigration is a massive problem in the United States. Since President Biden took office in January of 2021, over two million illegal aliens have entered the country.

American immigration policy has a direct effect on the levels of illegal immigration into the United States. One immigration policy that impacts illegal immigration is the designation of certain areas of the country as sanctuaries for illegal aliens.

In this article we will discuss the definition of this policy, examples of how it operates in different areas, and how it provides a haven for those engaged in other illegal activities.

Definition of Sanctuary Cities and States

Sanctuary cities, states, and counties are areas throughout the United States where law enforcement engage in limited compliance with federal immigration authorities. This is directly due to public policies implemented by state or city officials.

A comprehensive definition from our friends over at the Center for Immigration Studies hits the nail on the head:

“These cities, counties, and states have laws, ordinances, regulations, resolutions, policies, or other practices that obstruct immigration enforcement and shield criminals from ICE — either by refusing to or prohibiting agencies from complying with ICE detainers, imposing unreasonable conditions on detainer acceptance, denying ICE access to interview incarcerated aliens, or otherwise impeding communication or information exchanges between their personnel and federal immigration officers.”

On occasion, some public figures and commentators will use the term as a blanket statement to also discuss illegal aliens using public resources (IE free healthcare, in-state tuition, or acquiring drivers licenses).

To clarify, this is another issue on its own that incentivizes illegal immigration. Sanctuary cities or states are strictly defined by their lack of compliance with federal immigration authorities.

Sanctuary Policies in Practice

Sanctuary policies exist on a gradient, and no two areas have the same policy. As you can see from this sanctuary map created by the Center for Immigration Studies, there’s a wide variety of compliance with immigration authorities in place at multiple levels of government. These different layers of compliance create massive complications for immigration enforcement officers. 

One example would be State A, which has a statewide policy that allows for the detainment of illegal aliens, but only if the individual has an active warrant out, is guilty of a felony, or is on the terrorist watch list. That means if they’re just in the country illegally, law enforcement is powerless to take action. Their neighbor State B, makes no such provision at the state level. Instead, they let each municipality define their own level of cooperation with federal immigration officers. That means an illegal alien on the terrorist watch list could be apprehended in a part of State B, and be free to enter into State A after being released.

As pointed out by our friends at FAIR, many of the largest cities in the United States have sanctuary policies in place. Some cities and states won’t specifically define themselves with this term. This is likely due to the fact that the terms sanctuary city and sanctuary state are politically loaded phrases. Politicians want to avoid the negative media attention that comes from defining themselves in this manner, even if in practice they govern sanctuaries for illegal aliens.

Effects of Sanctuary Cities

Beyond incentivizing illegal immigration, sanctuary areas are also a magnet for other illicit activities. As we’ve written about in the past, sanctuary policies provide an outlet for terrorists, drug cartels, smugglers, human traffickers, and other criminals. 

One of the most infamous incidents involving a sanctuary city was the horrific shooting death of 32 year old Kate Steinle. Steinle was out for a walk in San Francisco when an illegal alien discharged a firearm that resulted in her death. The illegal alien in question had been deported and reentered the country multiple times, and was even apprehended in San Francisco prior to the shooting incident. Due to San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy, he was not handed over to federal immigration authorities.

The outcome of the case against the illegal alien who fired the gun was controversial. What’s cut and dry is the fact that if San Francisco did not have a sanctuary city policy in place, this horrific incident never would have happened.

If America wants to get serious about its immigration crisis, our government must crack down on these sanctuary policies. As we’ve said in the past, our country should be a sanctuary for its citizens, not illegal aliens.

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