Chronicle Editorial

Sanctuary

     In today’s information age of 24-hour social media cycles and partisan cable news programs, just about anyone can be primed to believe something, as anything can be taken out of context and turned into a catastrophe; just about anyone can be made in to an enemy. And with this constant priming of conflict by the spheres of our influences, it is imperative that a side be chosen for the coming storm between what is law and what is fear.

      This month, it was announced by Franklin County Sheriff Linn Larson, that the county would reopen and clear all avenues of communication and information sharing with both the FBI and Federal immigration officials (such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement).  Previously, the county did not have open lines of communications with these federal parties, when it came to enforcing the law, aligning it with a term that has gained notoriety over the last several years, “Sanctuary Cities.”

     The term “Sanctuary City” itself is a loaded duo of words, capable of now igniting harsh debates about the sanctity of liberty and the safety from our enemies. It is a term that most small governments, cities and counties try to avoid, as it brings with it a stereotype of the communities’ people, and their enforcers of law. Franklin County has never classified itself as a sanctuary city, nor has it defined its power in partisanship; yet, it appears on websites as one, and as the policy that governs the county has changed, its switch has sparked an air of confusion, apprehension and the partisan views from both sides of the immigration spectrum.

     As mentioned in the Chronicle’s story regarding the policy, a sanctuary city is a city that either denies an immigration request to detain a suspected illegal immigrant for 48 hours after they are fully processed within the county, or declines to share information about possible illegal immigrants with immigration officials, or both.

     Sanctuary cities have not garnered much media attention until the last two years, specifically during the 2016 election cycle. The term “sanctuary cities” has been thrown around since the 1980s, when churches of various denominations supported and sheltered refugees fleeing Central American conflicts during the Ronald Regan Administration. Over 250 churches across the country participated in the movement. The Regan Administration saw the religious activity as dissent towards his policies in the region. The conflict then, was between religions and the government.

     San Francisco identified itself as the first “Sanctuary City” in 1989, under an order by the city stating, “undocumented alien status itself is not a matter of police action.”

     For the last 30 years, these “havens” for criminals and illegal immigrants have existed without much public outcry. President Donald Trump brought sanctuary cities to the forefront of his campaign, on the grounds that these cities breed criminals and harbor illegal immigrants who steal jobs and benefits from other Americans. They are “sanctuaries” for those who wish to steal liberties from the state and endanger the lives of those who are citizens.

     The belief that immigrants who come to America are benefitting from the government institutions meant to help hardworking Americans is false. They do not receive food stamps, Medicare, benefit from pensions, or some of the many benefits that can only be claimed with a social security card and tax ID. When they visit a hospital, it is the law that everyone must be seen who comes through those ER doors.

     That being said, the U.S. was founded on laws and its success as a nation depends on the enforcement of those laws. ICE’s job is to investigate illegal immigration into the U.S. The fact that it has been a branch of the government for several decades means that it has some use. Detaining immigrants who are convicted of crimes in the U.S. is a good way to identify gangs, drugs trafficking and violence entering the country. Detaining them for a finite amount of time is a way to investigate and bring to justice, groups who wish to bring these things into the U.S. For that issue, safety is a concern. The institution of extended detention of those suspected of illegal immigration was in response to 9/11, so the Federal government could keep track of crimes in connection to terrorist plots. It is important to remember also that most acts of terror carried out in our country have come from American citizens, not illegal immigrants.

     Our country is founded on laws and principles. There cannot be a special treatment for anyone, in any county or state. As citizens, it is our job to keep those who wield such power in check, and informed, about the types of communities we want to live in, and if we will choose live in fear of those who are different from us. No matter the city, the county, the state or the nation, we have a job to uphold our laws, but we also hold the responsibility to ensure those laws don’t reach too far.

     What happens next is the law. Illegal immigration is called that for a reason. If you break the law, there is a consequence. But laws have never been on the side of morality. It is the hope that this nation’s laws are carried out responsibly, and ethically, to the extents afforded by our constitution.