Some members of Congress and Republican presidential
candidates want to cut off Justice Department grants to so-called
sanctuary cities — places like Los Angeles and San Francisco, where, as a
moral or practical matter, local law enforcement generally doesn't turn
over undocumented immigrants to federal authorities.“Enforcing
the immigration laws of the United States is not a voluntary or trivial
matter,” said Sen. Charles E. Grassley as he opened a hearing on the
topic this summer, after Katherine Steinle was killed in San Francisco,
allegedly by Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant.
In the 1980s, a new sanctuary movement offered safe harbor to hundreds
of people fleeing from Central American violence. La Placita, the Roman
Catholic church at Olvera Street in L.A., was a major participant. A
lawsuit brought by sanctuary advocates, American Baptist Churches vs.
Richard Thornburgh, made it more difficult for the U.S. to base asylum
decisions on foreign policy concerns rather than individuals'
Instead of attacking sanctuary cities, Congress should be listening to
their message. Sanctuary cities recognize that that in most cases,
deportation is the wrong punishment for illegal immigration, which is a
breach of civil, not criminal, law.