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Throughout this semester, we have learned how to craft and structure policy in an effort to implement or present change to proper officials so that institutions of our government can be improved. As a citizen activist and senior at George Mason University, I have spent the last several months researching sanctuary jurisdictions in the United States. The goal of this research is to understand the background and comprehensive history of this subject in an effort to justify a proposal for change. The research objective of this proposal is to come up with a comprehensive asylum seeking and relocation plan for immigrants in conjunction with sanctuary jurisdictions. In this proposal, we are advocating for a cross values policy that aims to compromise current conservative and liberal policies towards sanctuary jurisdictions.

So, what are sanctuary cities? Sanctuary jurisdictions, otherwise referred to as “Sanctuary Cities,” in the United States are cities, counties, or states that implement at least one policy that limit local or state law enforcement resources towards federal organizations in solving immigration issues. Today, sanctuary cities are used as misnomer for sanctuary jurisdiction. In the United States, there are currently around 300 sanctuary jurisdictions. A sanctuary city is important to both undocumented immigrants and the community. For undocumented immigrants, a sanctuary city will protect an immigrant from any inquiries towards their legal status. For example, if an undocumented person is driving over the speed limit, an officer will not be allowed to check their legal status. For the community, it allows the local law enforcement to focus on sustaining public safety and not blur responsibilities with federal law enforcement officials.  

To provide some background, The United States has had a long history of providing sanctuary to those vulnerable. Going as far back as the 1850s, Kristie Eshelman writes that sanctuary cities had a start in the form of northern states implementing personal liberty laws to protect those from the Fugitive Slave Act (2020, Eshelman). The sanctuary movement as we know it today, though, started in the 1980s. In their book, “Sanctuary Cities in International Perspectives: Migration, Citizenship and Social Movements,” Randy Lippert and Sean Rahaag write about sanctuary cities as a response to the refugee crisis that emerged from civil wars in Central America at the time. The Reagan Administration declared that one million Salvadorians and Guatemalans were “economic migrants,” making them at risk for deportation. In response, faith based organizations created the sanctuary movement to defend them. San Francisco became a city of refuge for Central American refugees in 1985, and by 1989, an Administrative Code was declared to prohibit local police, city and county staff from “inquiring or disseminating information about a person’s immigration status unless it is affirmatively required by federal or state statute, regulation or court decision (Lippert & Rahaag, 2013, pg.225).”

Today, there has been a renaissance of discourse related to the topic of Sanctuary Cities and legislation related to it. One of the most extreme measures to ban sanctuary cities came in the form of Texas’ SB 4 Bill. The SB 4 Bill, passed by Texas legislature and signed by Governor Gregory Abbot, requires all Texas law enforcement to comply with U.S Customs and Immigration Enforcement detainers (Five Things to Know about Texas’ SB 4 Bill). This prohibits local governments from not enforcing federal immigrations laws and would deny any policy from a local government that prohibits officers from inquiring about a person’s registration and immigrant status. This policy exists all throughout Texas and according to the National Immigration Forum, is being looked at in several states; North Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana.

            On the other side of the spectrum, California enacted Senate Bill 54. California Senate Bill 54 was passed by California legislature and signed by Governor Brother in October of 2017. The bill effectively makes California a “sanctuary state” by legalizing and normalizing state noncompliance between state law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement programs (California “Sanctuary State” Bill (SB 54) Summary and History). The bill prohibits state and local law enforcement from holding anyone undocumented on the demand of federal entities. In addition to that, it prohibits state and local law enforcements from asking about citizenship status and using any of their funds to assist federal immigration programs in detaining, arresting or ceasing any person suspected of being undocumented (California “Sanctuary State” Bill (SB 54) Summary and History).

            The President has remained a staunch critic of sanctuary cities. In his first 100 days of office, he implemented an Executive Action to withhold federal funding from sanctuary jurisdictions that “willfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States (Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States).” In addition to that, the White House wrote that the jurisdictions must make use of all available funds and programs directed at removing undocumented immigrants from the country. The executive order has been controversial, and debated in several courts. In 2018, several U.S. District Courts ruled against the ban, calling it unconstitutional.

            So what exactly are the opinions surrounding the subject of Sanctuary Jurisdictions? According to a February McClatchy-Marxist poll of US adults, cited in the Washington Post, 41 percent said there was no reason to have sanctuary cities, while 50 percent believed they are needed (Ye Hee Lee, 2017. When asked whether they support or oppose the federal government cutting funds toward sanctuary cities, 42 percent supported and 53 percent opposed (Ye Hee Lee, 2017). According to a Fox News poll cited in the same article, 41 percent supported and 53 percent opposed taking federal funds from sanctuary cities (Ye Hee Lee, 2017).

            According to the think tank, Third Way, democrats rate ICE unfavorably by 40 points, while independents rate them favorably by 16 points, and republicans by 62 (Kasai, 2020). According to Michelle Hackman in the Wall Street Journal, presidential candidate Joe Biden, though opposed in 2007, sided with sanctuary cities in stating that local officials should not turn immigrants over to federal officials (Hackman, 2020). President Donald Trump on the other side has led a large combat against the funding of sanctuary cities. He signed an executive order in 2017 that would block federal funds towards sanctuary cities; though, the courts blocked this (Hackman, 2020).  He has also argued for a merit based immigration system. This has caused an increase in the rejection of all work based visas. “About 6.1% of applicants for the H-1B visa for high-skilled immigrants were rejected in 2016, for example, compared with 15.1% in 2019 (Hackman, 2020).”

             With all that being said, what are the solutions going forward to this problem? After much research on the subject, I think the best way to move forward is through a plan that consists of alternatives from both the liberal and conservative sides. We cross examined two options, or alternatives, for sanctuary cities that complement each other. There should be an easier pathway to citizenship, as stated on Joe Biden’s website, but there is an option for the Republicans and Democrats to meet in the middle and provide a temporary location for migrants and asylum seekers in the form of Stephen Miller’s plan i.e. to release immigrants into sanctuary cities. Here is a lay out of plans that will be implemented to aid this policy solution:

PROPOSAL FOR ASYLUM SEEKING AND IMMIGRATION RELOCATION PLAN:

For the proposed future, hopefully by 2025, The United States Federal Government will work with immigration programs and sanctuary jurisdictions to develop a pathway towards citizenship for asylum seekers and migrants from Central America. This will plan will include providing a housing and  work visa for designated sanctuary jurisdictions in the United States contingent on qualifications being met through United States Customs and Border Protection. As stated in the decisions memo, immigrants contribute billions of dollars to the economy. We are hoping that we will be able to mutually benefit from each other by providing them an easier and quicker pathway towards citizenship. Here is a lay out of plans that will be implemented to aid this policy solution:

  1. There are currently about 300 state and local governments with sanctuary programs (Dalmia, 2019). They will work with the federal governments in absorbing incoming immigrants from various parts of Central America. Families will NOT be separated. We will reject the false choice between employment-based and family-based immigration policies (The Biden Plan for Securing Our Values as a Nation of Immigrants).As a nation of immigrants, we are hoping that the United States of America will continue to be a safe haven for those from all situations and walks of life.
  2. According to the current White House budget, the Immigration and Customs Enforcements (ICE) has a federal funding of 8.3 billion dollars (Strong Border Security). In 2025, that budget will be cut in half and 4.4 billion of those funds will be used to assist sanctuary cities in labor, housing, and transportation for asylum seekers and migrants.
  3. The visa system will be expanded. A wage based allocation will be established so that migrants will not be left vulnerable to those looking to exploit them (The Biden Plan for Securing Our Values as a Nation of Immigrants). In addition to high-skilled visas expanded, migrants will be allocated to roles based on their skills, no matter how entry or limited their skills might be. Students will be granted student visas and scholarships towards designated sanctuary jurisdiction universities. In addition, migrants will have the ability to apply for relocation to other jurisdictions for work
  4. After 5 years in their designated roles through our sanctuary jurisdiction programs, migrants and asylum seekers will be allowed to apply for citizenship as determined by recommendations from employers and a certificate signed by a state official. They will go through the customary pathway to citizenship process but at a much quicker rate. In addition, when interacting with The United States Customs and Border Agency, they will be able to go through the application and be vetted with 2 months from application.

So, why should the plan to create a pathway towards citizenship accompany the plan to relocate migrants and asylum seekers to local jurisdictions? “In 2015, the IRS collected $23.6 billion from 4.4 million workers without Social Security numbers-many of whom were undocumented (The Biden Plan for Securing Our Values as a Nation of Immigrants).” Vice President, and Presidential Candidate, Joe Biden’s proposal to reform the visa program to provide work for markets that need labor would serve different cities looking for labor positions to be filled.  According to Dalmia, “Many mayors and governors who have for years been pleading with Uncle Sam to give them special visas to recruit immigrants to relieve labor shortages or to boost flagging population can jump in on the action (Dalmia, 2019).” With that being said, a path towards citizenship for immigrants through work visas in designated sanctuary jurisdictions could serve the values of both democrats and republicans.

            I hope that through my research and report, you were able to get a sample of the way sanctuary jurisdictions in the United States work. It is a complex and emotional issue, but there is no reason we can have a comprehensive and bipartisan decision to deal with. “In 2015, the IRS collected $23.6 billion from 4.4 million workers without Social Security numbers-many of whom were undocumented (The Biden Plan for Securing Our Values as a Nation of Immigrants).” Vice President, and Presidential Candidate, Joe Biden’s proposal to reform the visa program to provide work for markets that need labor would serve different cities looking for labor positions to be filled.  According to Dalmia, “Many mayors and governors who have for years been pleading with Uncle Sam to give them special visas to recruit immigrants to relieve labor shortages or to boost flagging population can jump in on the action (Dalmia, 2019).” With that being said, a path towards citizenship for immigrants through work visas in designated sanctuary jurisdictions could serve the values of both democrats and republicans.

References

“California ‘Sanctuary State’ Bill (SB 54) Summary and History.” Federation for American Immigration Reform. Accessed October 20, 2020. https://www.fairus.org/legislation/state-local-legislation/california-sanctuary-state-bill-sb-54-summary-and-history

Dalmia, Shikha. “Sanctuary Cities Should Hope That Stephen Miller Makes Good on His Threats.” Reason.com. Reason, April 22, 2019. https://reason.com/2019/04/23/sanctuary-cities-should-hope-that-stephen-miller-makes-good-on-his-threats/.

“The Biden Plan for Securing Our Values as a Nation of Immigrants.” Joe Biden for President: Official Campaign Website, August 5, 2020. https://joebiden.com/immigration/.

Eshelman K. What is a sanctuary city? CE Think Tank Newswire. Apr 16 2020. Available from: https://search-proquest-com.mutex.gmu.edu/docview/2391173291?accountid=14541.

“Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” The White House. The United States Government, 2017. https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-enhancing-public-safety-interior-united-states/.

“Five Things to Know about Texas’ SB 4 Bill.” National Immigration Forum, n.d. https://immigrationforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/SB-4-five-questions.pdf.

Hackman, Michelle. “Where Trump and Biden Stand on Immigration, Border Wall and ICE.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, September 17, 2020. https://www.wsj.com/articles/where-trump-and-biden-stand-on-immigration-border-wall-and-ice-11600335000.

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