By Stephen Owsinski:
The ensuing and seemingly inconceivable basis surrounding the “Sanctuary City” concept is being hotly debated, and one perspective not being discussed has far-reaching economic consequences: Liability and costs to taxpayers.
Simply, each Sanctuary City opening up its municipal borders, effectively granting amnesty to those who have crossed national borders illegally, is tantamount to willingly inviting culpability and, hence, accepting liability. Lawsuits alleging government accountability and liability have already surfaced, one having been filed in a 2015 San Francisco incident.
“Help Me, Dad”
The Kathryn Steinle case glaringly demonstrates how this refuge trend can go horribly awry, underscoring threats to personal liberty in San Francisco. Steinle was walking with her father on a San Fran pier when an illegal immigrant shot and killed her. The murderer, whose convicted felon pedigree is appalling, was deported five times and was nevertheless walking freely among American citizens. While the illegal immigrant shooter enjoyed his sanctuary, he severed Steinle’s.
At the core, San Francisco politics opted to sever any compliance with U.S. immigration laws. Instead, the city created a cocoon for illegal immigrants. Consequences pervade, with many lives lost to violent immigrants who soil American soil.
And San Francisco continues to play a complicit role.
As Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy echoed in Congressional hearings, “But I swear, when I hear the term ‘Sanctuary City’…the only sanctuary it ought to be is for law-abiding citizens…” Jeh Johnson, then-Secretary of Homeland Security, quietly listened. Highlighting the Sanctuary City dilemma, Gowdy posed to Johnson: “How in the hell can a city tell you ‘no’ ?” And the beat goes on.
Judicial Watch acquired information indicating soaring crime rates in San Francisco since availing itself as a Sanctuary City, turning a blind eye to federal code and violating Constitutional principles. Other cities followed suit.
Steinle’s father filed a lawsuit against the City of San Francisco, holding local government accountable for the preventable loss of his daughter’s life.
Adding insult to injury (homicide), San Francisco’s lawyers are fashioning to quash the lawsuit, standing by its Sanctuary City covenant. Another sad chapter for the Steinle family, and San Fran is still wielding the pen.
The city’s complicity will come with a hefty cost, and this is just…one…case.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee devoutly supports Sanctuary City solidarity, so much so that his City Hall creates its own brand of ID cards and provides them to illegal immigrants. Talk about thumbing your nose to the rule of law! Speaking of which, SF law enforcement figureheads reportedly stand with Mayor Lee and vow to uphold Sanctuary City policies and directives. Bowing to the whims of the local politicians, San Francisco Sheriff’s Department (SFSD) policy precludes its law enforcement officers from informing federal authorities about detainee statuses. Compounding the issue, SFSD is prohibited from inquiring immigration status, upholding San Francisco ordinances while circumventing the U.S. Constitution. The federal/local law overlap is ongoing and contested by both sides.
A Twist in Policies
Without indemnifying San Francisco and other sanctuary cities, the Obama Administration stacked its chips on the table. Obama’s immigration-is-who-we-are mantra collided with federal courts, resulting in a body-check regarding his seeming penchant to use Executive Order privileges. The Court reminded Pres. Obama that immigration laws are under the domain of U.S. Congress, not the Presidency.
The Obama Administration largely supports the Sanctuary City concept, funneling funds to cities to support maintenance and logistics for those who encroach illegally. Federal dollars became a mainstay and perhaps influenced cities to harbor immigrants illegally. Instead of enforcing immigration statutes, cities created more of a homestead for those on deportation roles.
If treason and obstruction of justice come to mind, you are thinking quite clearly.
With President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign thrust of immigration and large-scale deportation, he is kiting his administration’s intention of slashing federal funding for cities which embrace Sanctuary City status. On one side of the coin, polarized philosophies and differing economies culminate in the crumbling of diplomacy between federal and local governments. Cities and counties claim their economy is too poor to afford what is required to enforce immigration laws. The federal government has the means, yet must rely on the cooperation (compliance) of local governments to meet half-way. In the middle is a tax base dangling like a carrot, and civil tort lawyers will be victorious (settlements) in the face of suing on behalf of U.S. citizens somehow grossly impacted by any illegal immigrant.
And the blood will drip from the hands of mayors, city managers, city council members and any manner of city/county leadership tacitly embracing Sanctuary City tenets. Scraping the bottom of the tax barrel will be the result, an entirely avoidable aspect.
One socioeconomic argument is that cities can ill-afford enforcing immigration laws and processing detainees (including deportation), finding it plausible to harbor (aid and abet) illegal immigrants. Yet, the federal government is open-armed, has slated funds, and insists on doubling down on left-leaning, amnesty-granting philosophies.
Let’s take a gander at Chicago, run by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, chum and former Chief of Staff for President Obama. (Draw your own conclusions.)
Chicago is said to be bankrupt and can ill-afford the potential (and inevitable) liabilities it exposed itself to when Mayor Emanuel declared it will not comply with the federal government’s wishes (federal codes) to deny illegal immigrants a safe-haven.
Further underscoring Chicago’s vulnerability is the recent Thanksgiving Day weekend violence in which eight people were murdered and 58 were significantly injured due to mayhem. The climate there has been rife with enormous spoil…and Sanctuary City status does nothing to mitigate that trend. In fact, it exacerbates it, as exemplified by the statistics showing the many citizens’ lives taken by illegal immigrants.
As stewards of tax dollars, Chicago and other local governments are taunting litigation by harboring would-be deportees. Settlements paid to citizens whose welfare is threatened by violent illegal immigrants inflicting harm within local jurisdictions is, in effect, facilitated by Sanctuary City leadership.
Look at this national dilemma empirically and the common denominator is a potentially vast drainage of local dollars from any of the 300+ cities displaying their Sanctuary City shingle. An otherwise preventable loss of life or affliction of violence equates to doling-out taxpayer dollars to settle lawsuits. The liability is gargantuan…and entirely avoidable. Sanctuary Cities are flouting fiscal responsibilities by thumbing their noses at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers.
If self-declared Sanctuary Cities such as Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Portland, New York et al. are staunchly rooted in Sanctuary City concepts, poring over the shortfall of federal immigration dollars will result in cities seeking to make up the loss elsewhere.
Several cities have already scrutinized how to make up monetary shortfalls left by federal (Trump) withholding of grants. Unsurprisingly, the usual suspects are afoot: taxes, taxes, taxes. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is pondering tax increases to keep their Sanctuary City afloat. Citizenry will foot the bill, should governance opt to cross arms in defiance.
Ideologies may differ, and co-opting enforcement of immigration laws is bandied about, but tax payers ultimately have the right to argue against expenditures and, in the face of throwing funds at otherwise preventable lawsuits or tax hikes, can retool its respective leadership in two-prong fashion: levy dissatisfaction with government leaders and/or vote them out of office.
Although no one can place a value on Ms. Steinle’s life, the obstinacy of any local government can be costly. Liability is not a new concept, and there will be no sanctuary for government leaders who drain city coffers to mere pennies, eventually depart office, and leave the jurisdiction in financial ruin. However, crippling a city fiscally is second to inviting mayhem, harm and even death to its citizen constituents.
“…protect and defend against all enemies foreign and domestic…” echoes in my brain. And the power of our Oath of Allegiance rests in legally achieving rights and the conferring of U.S. citizenship, perhaps one of the best handshakes any human can grasp. That covenant accords the right to roam freely, without harm.
In that regard, a Sanctuary City betrayed Ms. Steinle.
Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Contributor and retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer.