Should California become the first sanctuary state?


Pro: Claire Gilliland

California is a largely democratic state, as evidenced by its two Democratic Senators (Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein) and primarily Democratic representatives in Congress (38 Democrats compared to 14 Republicans). The state shows these liberal tendencies in its policies, from legalizing same sex marriage before the nation did to starting its path to becoming the nation’s first sanctuary state.

In California, a bill introduced in January proposed making the state a sanctuary for immigrants from immigration officials, such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), except in certain cases, such as if the person in question has committed a violent crime. This bill passed the state’s Senate earlier this month, to be later reviewed by its Assembly and eventually Gov. Jerry Brown.

California’s history with immigration follows a more liberal path in its policies. The country’s first real sanctuary city was Berkeley in California, which instilled its protective policies in November 8, 1971, intending to protect sailors in the Navy who were resisting the Vietnam War. Other California cities and even counties have followed this example and also worked to be a safe, welcoming environment for immigrants, documented or not.

With President Donald Trump’s harsh stance on immigration, the necessity for sanctuaries for the country’s undocumented immigrants has been reinforced. His plans for a wall along the Mexican border, for example, worry many Californians and have led for a call to action for the state to become a sanctuary state.

The idea behind a sanctuary state is simple: the state will protect many undocumented immigrants viable for deportation, though it will not serve as a sanctuary for those who have committed violent crimes such as homicide, kidnapping, or rape. Admittedly, the idea does become more convoluted in practice, but its premise remains pure and simple.

Trump’s administration is fighting California’s efforts, compiling plans to put public and economic pressure on the state to remain open for immigration officials rather than undocumented immigrants. Trump signed an executive order in January this year designed to punish and limit sanctuary cities that would apply to California if the state were to continue its efforts and become a sanctuary state as it should.

This executive order, known as Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, plans to cut federal funding and grant money for sanctuary cities. The application of Executive Order No. 13768 in the case of a state such as California would be disastrous, but it is likely that California can challenge this executive order in court along with other places, such as Seattle, that are suing Trump’s administration over the executive order. San Francisco already sued the administration last month over the federal government’s alleged withholding of federal grant money. Because of a law established in 2014 which limits California’s ability to hand over the fingerprints of undocumented immigrants to the federal government, the state is already set to lose some money set aside for law enforcement and health care.

According to Amber Phillips’s article in “The Washington Post,” a constitutional law professor at George Mason University, Ilya Somin, believes if the state were to pursue this case it would win against the administration. In her article, “California lawmakers are setting up a sanctuary state and daring Trump to stop them. Can he?” she noted that the Supreme Court consistently rules that the federal government cannot put conditions or limits on grants if the conditions are not “unambiguously” in the grant. This means that, since California’s grants don’t specifically say that the state cannot serve as a sanctuary for immigrants, the federal government cannot take away said grants because of California’s possible status as a sanctuary state.

Regardless of these possible economic turbulences, California should not back down; the state proves to be a crucial destination for undocumented immigrants fleeing whatever conditions drive them away from their home countries. Many are forced into the position of residing in this country illegally as a last resort. They shouldn’t be forced out and face even further prosecution by the federal government of the United States.
California should lead the nation towards an attitude of acceptance towards undocumented immigrants as a major liberal, Democratic state, and persist in its efforts to become a sanctuary state for such people.

Con: Marino Dominguez

Sanctuaries for those illegally walking the streets have been around for hundreds of years. In old England and America, churches used to allow criminals on the run to hide and sleep in them. Today, sanctuary cities around the nation harbor illegal immigrants who are fleeing the federal government. Now, the entire state of California, under Gov. Jerry Brown, is proposing legislation to become a sanctuary state.

There is just one problem: it is against the law.

Yes, every one of over 200 sanctuary cities is breaking the law. The law clearly states that every state in the United States will fully cooperate with the federal government in its attempts to keep the country safe and secure.

When the states defy the federal government, the government loses its power over the states, making the federal government powerless. The entire point of our government agencies is to keep us Americans safe from any potential dangers. To achieve their goal, they must be able to keep track of every citizen, including every crime they commit. Providing illegal immigrants — who by definition are criminals — a safe haven is completely wrong.

The federal government has already threatened to cut funding to these sanctuary cities, let alone states. Defunding might not go so well for illegal immigrants, since, according to the Center of Immigration Studies, over seven million of the 11.5 million illegal immigrants use some form of federal welfare.

The feds also provide support for California schools through after-school programs and education training, which, if funding was lost, would sound the death knell for the Common Core program. Many school districts, including Lodi Unified School District, have certified themselves as sanctuary districts. Over 13 percent of students in K-12 schools in California have parents who are illegal immigrants.

A loss in federal funds would eliminate help from the government in the form of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. California has utilized FEMA five times in the past three years, more than most other states. If California were to experience another cataclysmic earthquake, the federal government could force hand and require California to stop being a sanctuary state before it awarded federal aid.

A more direct effect of defunding would be loss of college loans through FAFSA. A state that loses its federal funding could potentially also lose its FAFSA eligibility, and no student in that state would be able to receive financial aid via the federal government.

A loss in federal funding would be very detrimental to illegal immigrants along with legal U.S. citizens.

For the last eight years, under former President Obama, liberal agendas have taken precedence over conservative agendas. For instance, when Texas, Alabama, Kentucky and other states refused to allow same sex marriage in their state after the Supreme Court ruled all laws banning same sex marriage unconstitutional, Democrats were furious, and those states were forced to overturn their laws. But when it comes to something like sanctuary states, Democrats do not feel compelled to obey federal law — and that’s somehow okay.

California depends heavily on the government for federal aid, accounting for $300 billion, the most of any state. California also carries a total debt of $443 billion, according to Stanford University.

So, realistically, this is exactly what would happen: Donald Trump and his groupies would run around, laugh at California and say, “Guess what? More money for us! No more funding ol’ Cali!” Gov. Brown would try to make it sound like the U.S. “needs” us, and everyone would follow his lead. Then, the hard-working taxpayers would look at their paycheck and flip when they see that half of their hard earned pay has gone to support our sanctuary state.

It can’t work. It won’t work. It’ll never work.