Today, Detroit City Council members will consider a proposal to make the Motor City a “sanctuary city” with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” mandate to prohibit police officers from asking about immigration status without criminal cause.
If Detroit acts on this proposal, it will join more than 30 other major cities that already have similar mandates.
Meanwhile, Congress has yet to re-open debate on immigration reform after abandoning proposals last year after an agreement could not be reached to secure the border without creating a path to citizenship that would have given amnesty to illegal aliens.
Sanctuary city policies defy guidelines from the 9/11 Commission Report, which called on state and local authorities to help federal agencies crack down on illegal immigration. On page 390 it said that, “There is a growing role for state and local law enforcement agencies [for the enforcement of immigration law]. They need more training and work with federal agencies so that they can cooperate more effectively with those federal authorities in identifying terrorist suspects.”
Detroit City Council President Kenneth Cockrel, Jr. doesn’t think his city’s police officers have any obligation to uphold federal immigration law. He told the Detroit Free Press, “If you’re a police officer and pulling someone over for a traffic stop, why do you need to see their immigration papers? That’s not the responsibility of the police force, that’s the responsibility of federal law enforcement to enforce immigration laws.”
Cockrel also said that he expects the sanctuary city proposal to pass.
Sanctuary cities protect illegal aliens through local resolutions, executive orders or city ordinances. City police departments may also issue their own special orders, policies and general orders to the similar effect.
Washington D.C.’s police chief Charles H. Ramsey recently revealed that the nation’s capital, perhaps the highest on the list of targets for terrorists, has a sanctuary policy in place. In August 2006 Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requesting documents pertaining to the department’s illegal immigration policies.
The department did not respond. Judicial Watch then filed a lawsuit on March 8, 2007, which prompted Ramsey to write a public memo which said:
“MPD [Metropolitan Police Department] officers are strictly prohibited from making inquiries into citizenship or residency status for the purpose of determining whether an individual has violated the civil immigration laws or for the purpose of enforcing those laws…the MPD is no in the business of inquiring about the residency status of the people we serve and it not in the business of enforcing civil immigration laws.”
Last month, the city of San Francisco affirmed its commitment to their “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to illegal immigration.
Federal authorities raided the Eagle Bag Corporation in Oakland, California on April 20 and arrested 13 foreign nationals who entered the country illegally. Soon after, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom condemned the raid.
“I will not allow any of my department heads or anyone associated with this city to cooperate in any way shape or form with these raids,” he said. “We are a sanctuary city, make no mistake about it.”
San Francisco has called itself a sanctuary city since 1989.
In the last year a handful New Jersey cities, Hightstown, Bridgeton, Trenton and Newark, have embraced sanctuary policies. In July New Haven, Connecticut will begin to issue “locally legal” identification cards that will allow illegal aliens to access social services, apply for bank accounts and rent property.
Sanctuary city policies were originally inspired by churches who gave aid to unauthorized migrants from Central America who fled from civil war in the 1980’s.
Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES) takes credit for lobbying the Detroit City Council to consider providing “sanctuary” for illegal aliens. According to their website, MOSES is a “congregation-centered, faith-based community organization reflecting the religious, racial, and ethnic diversity of Metropolitan Detroit.” According to their IRS tax forms, MOSES is a 501(c) (3) charity that seeks to “provide safe zones” and to “organize to get funding for drug prevention work with 53 member churches in the metro area.”
In 2003, the House attempted to shut off the federal spigot of anti-terror funding for sanctuary cities. Immigration hawks attempted to attach an amendment to that year’s homeland security funding bill to do this, but the amendment was soundly defeated with by a vote of 102-424.
When Congress takes up immigration legislation reform in the coming months, lawmakers should find a way to punish sanctuary cities that refuse to assist federal agents in enforcing immigration law.
The Senate is expected to debate on an immigration bill, yet to be unveiled, during the last two weeks of May. The House is planning to take up legislation introduced by Rep. Jeff Flake (R.-Ariz.) and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D.-Calif.) sometime in July.
Detroit, like the other cities who have enacted “don’t ask, don’t tell” immigration policies, will likely move faster on their city-wide mandate than Congress will be able to stiffen federal immigration laws.
An August 14, 2006 report produced by the Congressional Research Service listed 31 cities and counties that have “don’t ask, don’t tell” sanctuary policies in place. They are:
Los Angeles, California
San Diego, California
San Francisco, California
Sonoma County, California
Takoma Park, Maryland
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Durham, North Carolina
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Aztec, New Mexico
Rio Arriba County, New Mexico
Sante Fe, New Mexico
New York, New York
Marion County, Oregon
* Alaska and Oregon both have state-wide policies that forbid state agencies from using resources to enforce federal immigration law. Oregon law, however, does provide an exception to allow law enforcement officers to share information on immigration status with federal authorities with those arrested for criminal offenses.