New York’s History; Immigrants’ effect on crime; Support for cutting federal funds.
The most attention cities have received in this presidential election may very well be in reference to “sanctuary cities,” a term used to describe cities that shield illegal immigrants from detection. Although last week’s GOP YouTube debate touched on urban crime and infrastructure, it led off with a protruded battle over sanctuary cities that was simply a continuation of the contentious debate being waged between the Republican hopefuls across the campaign trail. In a plan to force these cities to alert federal immigration authorities of undocumented aliens, many of the GOP candidates have endorsed cutting federal funds for sanctuary cities.
As the home of Rudolph Giuliani, New York City has born the brunt of remarks about sanctuary cities, but the policy there spans three other administrations. In 1989, then-Mayor Ed Koch mandated a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy concerning the immigration status of aliens reporting a crime, enrolling children in school, or seeking emergency medical care. The policy was continued through Mayor David Dinkins’ term into Giuliani’s, when in 1996 the federal government passed a law prohibiting states and municipalities from doing such a thing. Giuliani filed suit over the law, and publicly defended the policy by declaring, “It’s not only to protect [immigrants], but to protect the rest of society, as well.” But the courts ruled against him in 1999. To conform with the its decision, Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a new mandate in 2003 that revoked the “don’t tell” aspect of the policy. After an outcry, however, he re-implemented it. But in an attempt to comply with the federal law, Bloomberg broadened the amount of information kept private to include more details than simply immigration status.
Giuliani has defended his actions by linking the policy to the reduction in crime that occurred in the city under his watch. (Indeed, TNAC’s last issue noted that criminologists are finding a correlation between high immigration rates and low crime.)
But Tom Tancredo – who in the debate pointed out that he is not merely against illegal immigration, he’s anti-immigration all together – doesn’t see things that way. As he swept into Newark in August after it was found that two of the suspects in a particularly grisly murder there were illegals, he brandished different numbers. The Colorado lawmaker pointed to a report that found illegal immigrants accounted for 95 percent of all outstanding murder warrants for 2004 in Los Angeles, and the “most violent gangs” there consisted of 60 percent illegals. Newark and Los Angeles are both considered sanctuaries.
To enforce the 1996 law prohibiting sanctuaries, Tancrado proposes cutting all federal discretionary funds to cities that have the policy in place. He is joined in this proposal by Fred Thompson. Mitt Romney has called for cutting funding back, but not off, and Mike Huckabee has shown support for the concept but offered no details. Only Giuliani was outright opposed to a ban.
A recent poll by Rasmussen Reports found 58 percent of voters in support of cutting off funds for sanctuary cities, with only 29 percent opposed.
This year, Tancredo introduced a successful amendment to a Homeland Security spending bill that would deny homeland defense funds to state and local governments that refuse to share information on illegal immigrants with federal authorities. While the bill was passed by the House, a Tancredo spokesperson told Salon that the chances of the Senate taking up the amendment were “slim.” The Major Cities Chiefs, a coalition of law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and Canada, have opposed proposals like this, arguing they would “make the streets of our major cities less safe and more riddled with crime.”
But for all of the debate amongst the GOP candidates, things are much more agreeable on the Democratic side. With the exception of Joe Biden, all of the Democratic hopefuls oppose such a ban on funding.