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Must Cities Enforce the Law?
Cities around America are saying no—and leading the country toward a second civil war.
On July 1, 2015, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez fired a stolen gun on a pier in San Francisco, California. The bullet hit a young woman who was walking arm-in-arm with her father. “Help me, Dad,” she said. Two hours later, in a local hospital, she died.
Her killer, authorities soon discovered, was an illegal immigrant who had been convicted of seven felonies and deported five times.
After illegally entering the United States for the sixth time, Lopez-Sanchez had been arrested and incarcerated in a federal prison. As the date neared for him to be turned over to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, however, prison officials decided to move him to the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department on an outstanding drug-related warrant. The San Francisco district attorney’s office refused to prosecute Lopez-Sanchez for a decade-old marijuana possession case, and instead released him back onto California’s streets on April 15, 2015.
He shot Kathryn Steinle with a gun stolen from a U.S. Bureau of Land Management vehicle 77 days after his release.
Steinle’s death elicited a public outcry against “sanctuary” cities like San Francisco that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials to deport people who enter the U.S. illegally and are wanted by federal authorities. In fact, in the three weeks after Steinle was killed, Republican support for presidential candidate Donald Trump jumped from 15 to 28 percent. Trump’s campaign pledge to actually enforce existing U.S. immigration law resonated with millions of Americans who were fed up with politicians downplaying out-of-control illegal immigration and its deadly results.
In the presidential election, 63 million Americans ended up voting for the candidate who promised to faithfully enforce the immigration laws passed by Congress, in contrast to his predecessor. But now that President Trump has begun to take action against illegal immigration, the spotlight is on more than 650 cities, counties and municipalities that have their own statutes that directly oppose federal (and sometimes even state) law.
These local governments uphold sanctuary laws that forbid local officials from assisting federal agents who are enforcing U.S. immigration law.
This is one trend among many others showing that America is more ideologically and politically divided now than at any time since the Civil War.
It is hard to know how this situation will unfold, but this much is certain: A fight is brewing between the Trump administration and a coalition of Democratic Party officials over whether or not sanctuary jurisdiction will allow U.S. immigration law to be enforced. The Trumpet can say with certainty that this division will get much deeper, based on a biblical forecast that is 3,500 years old.
From 1990 to 2014, the number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. tripled from 3.5 million to 11.7 million, meaning illegal immigrants now account for about 3.5 percent of the nation’s population. Because these illegal immigrants aren’t vetted before entering the country, a disproportionate number of violent criminals have mixed in among these waves of hard-working individuals and families seeking a better life.
This is why illegal immigrants commit murder at roughly three times the rate of U.S. residents in general. According to the Government Accountability Office, “criminal aliens” were incarcerated for 25,064 homicides between 2003 and 2010. This figure includes murders committed by all noncitizens, not just illegal immigrants, but it shows that noncitizens—8 percent of the population—commit 22 percent of the murders.
Despite such alarming facts, at least five states, 633 counties and 39 cities limit the extent that local officials can assist federal immigration agents. Between January 2014 and September 2015, sanctuary jurisdictions refused over 17,000 requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain an individual for 48 hours after their release date in order to give federal officials time to put them into the federal deportation system.
Nearly 12,000 (70 percent) of these rejected requests were issued for illegal aliens with a criminal record.
This means sanctuary jurisdictions are releasing nearly 600 illegal aliens with criminal backgrounds each month.
In an attempt to end this practice and to enforce federal immigration laws, President Trump issued an executive order on January 25, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” “Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States,” this order states. “These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic. … The purpose of this order is to direct executive departments and agencies to employ all lawful means to enforce the immigration laws of the United States.”
Since constitutional law forbids the president from federalizing local police departments or compelling states to enforce federal laws at their own expense, Congress usually encourages local governments to assist in the enforcement of federal acts by giving out grants of money. President Trump’s executive order threatens to strip sanctuary jurisdictions of such federal funding if they continue refusing to assist immigration agents.
The American Transparency Organization found that the federal government gives 106 sanctuary cities nearly $27 billion in funding. Yet much of this funding does not explicitly state that it is available only if these cities comply with federal immigration laws. So unless Congress changes each federal grant to include such a precondition, it is highly unlikely the judiciary will allow President Trump to cut off all $27 billion in funding to sanctuary jurisdictions.
However, if the Trump administration can make a convincing legal case that these funds are not being used according to their intended purpose, the federal government could strip these jurisdictions of at least millions of dollars.
New Nullification Crisis
Now that Republicans hold the presidency, along with both houses of Congress and 31 state governorships, cities are the only major layer of government that Democrats still control. Yet Democratic politicians still hold a lot of power, because 2 out of 3 Americans live in cities. The mayors of 37 major American cities have pledged that they will steadfastly remain sanctuary cities in spite of the president’s threat to withhold federal funding.
President Trump and these mayors are currently engaging in a high-stakes game of chicken. If Congress supports the president’s pledge to cut funding to sanctuary jurisdictions and the mayors still refuse to comply, America will experience a new nullification crisis.
The original nullification crisis erupted in 1832 during the presidency of Andrew Jackson, whose portrait now hangs on the wall of President Trump’s newly decorated Oval Office. South Carolina declared certain federal tariffs to be unconstitutional, and the state stopped enforcing these tariffs. To stave off a constitutional crisis, Congress passed two measures: a compromise tariff to assuage South Carolinians, and an act authorizing President Jackson to use military force if the state didn’t accept the compromise. South Carolina accepted the compromise tariff. But it wasn’t until after the brutal Civil War that every state accepted that federal courts have the final say in determining which acts of Congress violate the U.S. Constitution.
If local jurisdictions were able to nullify federal immigration law, then anyone could enter the United States. That is why the Constitution vests the power to determine immigration policies with Congress, not states, municipalities or universities. So while it is true that the president cannot force sanctuary jurisdictions to cooperate with federal immigration agents if they are willing to endure certain funding cuts, Congress can pass an act requiring local police agencies to report illegal aliens with criminal backgrounds to federal immigration officials.
This is a legal truth that sanctuary jurisdictions must accept if a constitutional crisis is to be averted.
Send in the Feds
If sanctuary jurisdictions continue to refuse assistance to immigration agents, President Trump will either have to give up on his campaign pledge to enforce America’s immigration laws, or he will have to enforce these laws using only federal officials. The second option would mean a massive expansion of federal police power.
The number of federal officers with arrest-and-firearm authority has nearly tripled from less than 75,000 in 1996 to more than 200,000 in 2016. The number of nonmilitary federal officers authorized to make arrests and carry firearms now exceeds the number of U.S. Marines. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been the primary architects of this expansion of federal power, but President Trump’s executive order will add another 5,000 border patrol agents and 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to the ever growing list.
Besides promising to enforce U.S. immigration laws, President Trump also pledged to restore “law and order“ to America’s cities. In his first week in office, he expressed his willingness to use federal police power to honor this pledge, posting on social media that he would “send in the feds” to Chicago if the city didn’t fix the “horrible carnage going on.”
Exactly what the president meant by “send in the feds” is still a matter of debate. His two likeliest options would be to either embed Federal Bureau of Investigation agents within local police departments or to send in the National Guard until order is restored. While the second option is certainly the more extreme move, former Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson set precedents for such actions.
In 1957, President Eisenhower invoked the Insurrection Act of 1807 to authorize military intervention in Little Rock, Arkansas, after a riot broke out against federal efforts to desegregate the Arkansas school system. In 1967, President Johnson invoked the same act, sending in soldiers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions to put down a violent race riot in Detroit. While Johnson collaborated with Gov. George Romney of Michigan, Eisenhower circumvented state authority to quell the civil unrest.
As murder rates surge in America’s largest cities and race riots become more common (see sidebar), President Trump is going to face some difficult decisions about how to enforce the law in a nation where city mayors obstruct justice and encourage lawlessness. Meanwhile, on the streets, a segment of American society is digging in and making itself “ungovernable” in protest against the president. Anger and bitterness are running high and, at times, erupting in violence.
The situation is leading to a civil war.
For years, the Western Hemisphere has been plagued by violent Latin American cartels that move dangerous drugs northward into the United States in return for cash profits and military-style weapons. One primary reason these cartels have been successful is that Americans have spent about a trillion dollars on illegal drugs in the past decade. The cartels infiltrating America are financed by U.S. drug users and supported by U.S. gangs of fatherless youth.
Now is the time for every American to ask what might we be doing to have brought such chastisement upon ourselves. This is not merely a speculative religious hypothesis or a debatable theological introspection. It is something we did as a nation when we faced our first civil war. During that war, President Abraham Lincoln wrote: “The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God.
America’s Murder Rate
America’s murder rate is rising faster than at any time in the past 45 years. According to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigations, 15,696 murders were committed during 2015. This means the nationwide homicide count rose by 10.8 percent, the biggest year-to-year percentage jump since 1971.
For 2016, the Economist gathered data for 50 of America’s most violent cities and found that homicide rates rose in 34 of them. These 50 metropolitan areas contain 15 percent of the country’s population, yet account for 36 percent of the country’s murder victims. The Major Cities Chiefs Association (mcca) estimated that the homicide count increased by double-digit percentages in 61 American cities last year. Since the majority of murders in America take place in big cities, this indicates that the nationwide murder rate almost certainly increased substantially again last year.
“We’ve had at least two years running now where there’s been an increase in 35 to 45 major cities,” mcca executive director Darrel Stephens told Time magazine. “It’s a major issue and should be in the cities where it’s taking place” (January 30).
Total violent crime—including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault—increased from 1,153,022 reported incidents in 2014 to 1,197,704 reported incidents in 2015, the biggest spike since 1992.
Stephens cited gang violence, drug-related violence and the easy availability of firearms as root causes behind the spike in homicides. Meanwhile, American political commentator Heather MacDonald, author of The War on Cops, argues that this recent surge of murders is a result of the “Ferguson effect”—police officers in minority neighborhoods backing off from interacting with residents when not absolutely necessary because of public hostility in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014.
Milwaukee Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. digs deeper and blames government entitlement programs for making his fellow black Americans in inner cities dependent on the state, fueling a breakdown of nuclear families that exacerbates criminal behavior. While 1 in 3 American children is raised without a father, this figure goes up to approximately 1 in 2 or more in some big cities. Approximately 85 percent of youths in prison come from fatherless homes.
The family, the foundation of any stable society, is under attack in America. As long as this continues, American society will continue to produce criminals at a record rate. One reason violent crime had been decreasing until just recently is that America’s prison population has quintupled since 1970. Almost 700 out of every 100,000 Americans sit in the nation’s prisons and jails—a higher rate than any other country in the world.
President Donald Trump has promised to “make America safe again” by declaring a federal war on crime. Until the root cause behind America’s crime epidemic is fixed, however, the nation will continue to struggle with violence. Five months before the United States Constitution was signed, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “[O]nly a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” When people are out of control, when the sense of personal responsibility and morality degenerates, freedom diminishes, and people are forced to either live in a police state or in anarchy.
Yours for better living,
Bruce, the Poor Man
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