This new Texas law, due to go into effect on September 1st, was passed by the Legislature to specifically target Austin and Travis County. Why then, are other cities in Texas that have not declared themselves as “sanctuary cities”, banding together to challenge the law in court? Not only has the city of Austin filed suit, but also Houston, San Antonio, El Cenizo (Webb County), Mission and El Paso counties have challenged the law on constitutional grounds.
The law was passed in April, and Gov. Greg Abbott signed it in May after he designated the legislation an emergency item needed to ensure Texans were safe from undocumented immigrants that commit crimes. That’s all well and good. Texans do want to be safe from criminals. But, is that what this is really all about? The entire phenomenon of sanctuary cities is really a quite recent one. It is actually a reflection of the broader issue of the federal government’s failure to enact sensible immigration legislation.
Believing that the mayors and city councils that have declared their cities as sanctuary cities are really unconcerned about the safety of their citizens are ludicrous. If the citizenry came to really believe that, those politicians would be voted out of office at the next election. That they haven’t been suggesting that there’s really something else going on in those communities.
Citizens are not as concerned with crimes committed by undocumented aliens as they are with the government’s inability to make distinctions between violent and non-violent offenders. The argument goes, “If we cooperate with the federal government at all, they will simply screw it up and begin targeting otherwise law abiding people who came here illegally because there was no way they could enter the country legally.”
And, that is the crux of the matter. For years, politicians have been parroting the mantra, “But, they broke the law”, and “they should go back where they came from, get in line, and wait their turn.” The trouble is, for the vast majority who have come here over the past 30 years, there is no line to get into.
Immigration to the United States is based upon the following principles: the reunification of families, admitting immigrants with skills that are valuable to the U.S. economy, protecting refugees, and promoting diversity. Under family-based immigration, only American citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) may legally bring a relative into the country to remain permanently. Even this effort to reunite families has a quota.
The law provides for an annual worldwide limit of 675,000 permanent immigrants. Within that overall quota, it also places “per country ceilings” on the number of people who may enter the country legally from any particular country. No group of permanent immigrants (family-based and employment-based) from a single country can exceed seven percent of the total amount of people immigrating to the United States in a single fiscal year.
Within the “employment-based” immigration category, there is no quota for unskilled workers. That’s right – NO QUOTA. There’s no way for such individuals to even apply for permission to enter the country legally.
Take a young father in Mexico, or El Salvador, or Guatemala, or any other third-world country. In his country, he has no way of providing for his family, no matter how hard he wants to work. He’s just like most fathers anywhere. He’s a good Christian. He doesn’t want to join one of the drug cartels or engage in other criminal activity. He’ll do anything, short of such activity, to provide a better life for his family. He looks to the North. He knows there is work in the United States. He knows that farmers need workers to pick their fruit and vegetables. He knows that construction companies need workers willing to work out in the hot sun for hours each day for minimum wage.
He’s heard that there once was the Bracero Program that allowed people just like him to come to the U.S. and work. But, that program was ended in 1964. He knows he can’t apply to enter the U.S. legally to work because it makes no provision for people like him, unskilled with limited education. But, he also knows that illegal entry into the U.S., while a crime, is only a misdemeanor, like getting a speeding ticket. He’s not coming to the U.S. to deal drugs and kill people. He wants to work.
That makes up the overwhelming majority of those who have entered the U.S. illegally in the past 30 years, including the parents who brought their young children with them, those who are now called Dreamers. These are the people that sanctuary cities want to protect, not violent criminals.
But, they also know that the federal government is unable to discern between the two. This is primarily because politicians on the Right beat the “law and order” drum so loudly, failing to distinguish between a misdemeanor and a felony. “They broke the law. Therefore, they must be bad people. We need to round them up and send them back where they came from.” Any attempt to try and come up with a reasonable program to recognize their presence legally is met with angry challenges to “Amnesty”. But, what’s wrong with declaring an amnesty for a misdemeanor offense?
It is especially troubling to hear Christians making such demands. First of all, there’s Jesus’ admonition “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” Only those who’ve never gotten a speeding or parking ticket have any business wailing about someone who has committed nothing more than a misdemeanor offense.
But, more importantly, where’s the sense of Christian charity and tolerance? It’s a pity that certain people seem to be unable to distinguish between a father and mother who simply want a better life for their children and violent offenders? The federal government certainly can’t. It can’t get anything right. These cities fear that, once they begin cooperating with the federal government to turn over violent offenders, the next step will be forcing them to begin rounding up otherwise law abiding people, demanding to check their status, and turning them over to ICE. That has already happened.
The argument that illegal immigrants are net “takers” of government services and give nothing back is equally nonsensical. They are human beings. They have to have food, clothing, and shelter. They pay the same taxes as any other citizen, including property taxes. Those property taxes are included in the rent they pay, just like any other renter. They pay sales tax when they buy something, just like everyone else.
While we need to provide increased measures to secure our border from entry by drug smugglers and possible terrorists, we also need to stop demonizing people who came here just for a better life. This is especially true for those calling themselves Christians.
Rich Beil is a guest columnist and a 1993 graduate of Tarleton’s former Master’s degree program in Government. He is a protege of Flash columnist Dr. Malcolm Cross and a retired Lt. Col. with the United States Marine Corps. The views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.