Stop Immigration Processing as Leverage Against Sanctuaries?

By Kent Lundgren, February 3, 2017

Across the country, local governments are declaring themselves so-called "sanctuaries" for deportable aliens. They refuse to cooperate with immigration enforcement. They refuse to honor detainers placed against dangerous aliens in their jails, releasing them instead back to the community rather than turn them over to federal authorities to be removed from the country. They forbid employees to notify immigration authorities of illegal aliens in our midst, even those drawing public benefits to which they are not, by law, entitled. Their law enforcement officers are not allowed to assist federal officers in enforcement actions against illegal aliens, against whom immigration laws may be used to good effect. In short, those entities resist federal exercise of authority over aliens in this country.

The following proposal starts from the position that the federal government has a duty to control the presence of aliens in this country and that it must bring the practice of sanctuary to an end. Justifying that position (although it seems to the writer perfectly clear) is beyond the scope of this proposal, so no attempt will be made to do so here. The writer does, however, comment that the sanctuary practice has ramifications beyond immigration law and must, for the sake of the Republic, be stopped without further delay. Secession, as an idea, was put to bed in 1865.

How best to dissuade the local governments from their chosen path? The proposal has been made to cut off federal funds to those cities. Good: a first step. But many of them have already said they are willing to forego that money for the sake of protecting alien lawbreakers.

Another likely proposal would have the federal government arrest and prosecute officials responsible for adopting or executing such policies. Title 8 US Code, Sec. 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii), which deals with harboring, concealing, or shielding from detection illegal aliens, and Title 18 US Code, Sec. 371, which covers conspiracy to commit a violation of U.S. law, are the relevant federal statutes. While the writer finds the vision of the sheriff, mayor, and city council being led off in irons entertaining, he concedes that it should be a last resort.

What is lacking in this two-step continuum of persuasion is an intermediate step. One is available.

We posit that if those governments choose not to cooperate in enforcing immigration laws then, by their intransigence, they have placed themselves and those they govern (who put them in place, after all) beyond the services and benefits offered by our immigration laws. This idea is not without approximate parallel in law. Some countries refuse to take back their citizens who have been ordered deported from the US. In such cases, Title 8 USC, Sec.1253(d) provides that the US Secretary of State shall direct US consuls in that country to cease issuing visas to citizens of that country.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is a branch of the Department of Homeland Security charged with receiving, adjudicating, and delivering the benefits of immigration and naturalization laws. Therefore, the writer proposes that the White House direct USCIS to suspend the adjudication of any applications or petitions received from a business or resident in a sanctuary entity.

We will not attempt here to get into the "how-to" of that process. Those are details to be worked out by USCIS and other personnel charged with making it happen, but it would not be difficult.

What that will mean in practical terms is this: USCIS will accept applications as always, but they will go, in date order, into a "pending adjudication" file. Once the dispute between the federal government and the local entity is resolved the decision process will begin again, with oldest cases being first.

What will the effect be on the public? Employers in sanctuary cities will be unable to get approval to bring foreign employees to this country. Alien employees already here legally will be unable to have their status extended or changed. Aliens who are temporarily here for any purpose, such as students, professional athletes and performers, businessmen, or tourists will be unable to extend their stay or change their status. They will have to leave when their authorized stay expires. Families will be unable to file petitions to have alien relatives admitted to the United States. Permanent alien residents who are eligible to naturalize will have to wait until this unpleasantness is settled.

This entire continuum should be extended to schools (colleges or otherwise) that accept federal funds or alien students of any category and which declare themselves sanctuaries. Their status as educators does not render them immune from the law or persuasive action.

This is intended to be, in a blunt phrase, political arm-twisting. Local governments have shown themselves willing to loot the public treasury and endanger the public over the issue. Now we will see how much inconvenience, loss of revenue, or even emotional pain the public is willing to accept for the sake of the principle of "sanctuary" – a concept which does not exist in law.