McCrory misleads on “Sanctuary Cities”?

Gov. Pat McCrory’s statements on so-called “sanctuary cities” are misleading, inaccurate and alarmist. While the Governor suggests that limiting participation in enforcement of federal immigration guidelines could protect violent criminals, the evidence is clear that the opposite is true.

Across the country, cities, counties, states and police departments have adopted policies that limit their participation in active enforcement of federal immigration laws. The reasoning behind these “limiting” policies is practical: Vigorous enforcement of immigration laws by local police became counterproductive. Victims or witnesses from the immigrant community are less willing to come forward and report crimes if they think their immigration status will be investigated.

The Columbia Journalism Review debunked concerns of sanctuary city critics effectively, noting that “such approaches — driven by concerns over local crime — hardly provide illegal immigrants with anything that could be reasonably called a ‘safe haven’ or sanctuary.'”

It is evident from his public pronouncements that Gov. McCrory is unclear on the meaning of the term “sanctuary city.” He loosely used the term to invoke fear of sanctuary cities when the term is used as a catch-all to describe different types of policies adopted in different cities.

One critical point: What it definitely does not mean is that people who are committing serious crimes such as drug trafficking cannot be arrested and put in jail. All observers agree on this point. All cities and states, whether sanctuary cities or not, have the right and duty to enforce state and local criminal laws and to keep their citizens safe. Gov. McCrory should cease using inaccurate and alarmist rhetoric that suggests otherwise.

As the Columbia Journalism Review put it, “‘Sanctuary city’ is … impossible to define in a meaningful way, and broadly inapplicable to what is happening with immigration in American cities. It is exactly the kind of rhetoric that we need the press to take apart and explain — clearly and repeatedly — all the ways it is misused.”

Regardless of definitions, however, policies that encourage victims of crime and witnesses to come forward and cooperate with the police in keeping their communities safe should be encouraged by reasonable parties on any side of the immigration debate. Ultimately, meaningful federal immigration reform is the best way to allow state and local officials to spend less time worrying about the immigration status of those they encounter, and more on the day-to-day work of investigating and prosecuting crimes. But until federal reform arrives, municipal policies that encourage all community members to feel comfortable communicating with the police are one way to improve community safety.

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