It’s past time to rethink the practice and name of sanctuary cities.
Sanctuary policies are laws, resolutions, and ordinances passed by local authorities that prohibit city employees from notifying federal authorities- or cooperating with federal immigration laws- regarding the presence of illegal immigrants living in and around their communities. The origin of these laws apparently originate from the so-called Sanctuary Movement of the 1980’s, an American social and religious agenda that sought to protect and provide “sanctuary” for immigrants seeking asylum from violence primarily in Central America. During this time, churches and other social organizations acted as safe havens for illegal immigrants and refugees who were refused asylum by the United States government.
Though the beginning of this movement may have been borne out of good intentions, the current policies associated with sanctuary cities are anything but. Now, sanctuary cities- and those who support them- openly defy and ignore federal immigration policies concerning illegal aliens. Sanctuary cities, by-and-large, no longer protect refugees seeking asylum. Rather, these cities are actively protecting illegal aliens who knowingly and intentionally thwarted the country’s immigration procedures to take advantage of the social and economic spoils that come with living in America- all coming at the expense of taxpaying citizens and immigrants who came here- or are in the process of coming here- legally. This law breaking and theft is aided and abetted by policies and supported by people whose moral and ideological worldview see no difference between illegal aliens, legal immigrants, and US citizens. For them, the so-called “rights” of illegal aliens are just as important as the rights of citizens. But when people deliberately come to the country illegally, or overstay their visas, they have no rights. They’re not immigrants; they’re lawbreakers who’re eligible for deportation. To purposefully equate citizens and legal immigrants with illegal aliens is immoral and it both undermines and trivializes US citizenship, and our immigration laws, respectively.
This kind of politicized and ideological defiance of federal immigration laws is an issue of public safety, as the recent murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco demonstrates. Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an illegal alien and seven-time felon who had been deported five times, casually murdered Kate Steinle earlier this month.
The original Sanctuary Movement and its illegitimate offspring, sanctuary cities, centers its moral basis among several traditions of defending life which includes the sanctuary cities found in the Old Testament, the Underground Railroad that sought to help slaves escape the dehumanization of slavery in the American south; and the program of protecting Jews from persecution and death during World War II. Though these precedents were noble actions that attempted to protect and sustain the sanctity of life against revenge and the forces of evil, my concern is the biblical notion of sanctuary cities and how this idea has been morally and politically perverted in favor of an ideological agenda that refuses to distinguish right from wrong in its quest to weaken federal immigration laws under the banner of social “justice.”
Biblically speaking, sanctuary cities were “cities of refuge.” Examples and prescriptions that applied to these cities of refuge are found in several places in the Old Testament (including Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua), where God commanded the Israelites to establish specific places as safe havens for those who had accidentally and or unintentionally killed another person. Because a person killed accidentally- as opposed to having murdered someone intentionally (and there is a moral difference between killing and murdering), the designated city would provide refuge- a safeguard against the avenger of blood (generally a family member seeking retribution for the unintended death). The person seeking sanctuary was required to remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest serving at the time of his arrival, after which the person was allowed to go back to his family without fear of reprisal.
However, if someone sought asylum in a city of refuge and was found guilty of intentional murder- proof of which came after a trial, he was not allowed to receive sanctuary; he was rightly put to death. He was shown no pity. The divine directive commanded the Israelites to purge the evil from their midst (Deut. 19:19). Plainly speaking, there was a very clear distinction between intentional and premeditated murder and unintentional killing; between the guilty and the innocent- all in the pursuit of maintaining the law and preserving the sanctity of human life.
Not so with the current manifestation of sanctuary cities. Unlike the recommendations regarding cities of refuge in the Bible, current sanctuary cities sanctimoniously and defiantly refuse to differentiate between the guilty and the innocent. In a moral inversion of the original, current sanctuary cities actually provide sanctuary for the guilty at the expense of the innocent. Sanctuary cities flout federal immigration laws, refusing to report the illegal aliens (and their extra-criminal activity) they knowingly harbor, consciously and unreservedly perverting justice in the process. Again, we must be clear: sanctuary city policies transparently and without shame, protect and defend the guilty, not the innocent.
Rather than bringing the deviants to justice, sanctuary cities redefine justice to appease and cater to illegal aliens, which is an injustice to legal immigrants and American citizens.
Illegal aliens receiving sanctuary (and those who grant it) are, by definition, guilty of intentional law breaking. As increasing examples demonstrate, many are guilty of much, much worse. In harboring illegal aliens, these cities don’t just simply blur the lines between life and death; they actually invite death itself. Again, as the preventable death of Kate Steinle demonstrates, Francisco Lopez-Sanchez (a fitting name, indeed)- the illegal alien and convicted felon– said he knew San Francisco was a sanctuary city so he knew he wouldn’t be deported.
Politicians and others who create and defend sanctuary city policies and who willfully participate in blurring the lines between legal and illegal, right and wrong, justice and injustice, are guilty of perpetuating a caricature of moral authority that invites and nurtures the kind of criminality that violates public safety. Embracing a sympathetic ideology that lacks common sense to justify the continued harboring of illegal alien criminals is socially destructive and a moral shame.
And if sanctuary cities shelter the guilty and the criminal at the expense of the innocent, who or what protects the innocent victims of such policies?
Christian or not, politicians and those who support the postmodern notion of sanctuary city policies violate the law, common sense, and Leviticus 19:15 which says, “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.”