Three Cheers for Sanctuary Cities

From:,  by Erick Erickson,  on Mar 31, 2017

Sanctuary cities are an exercise in federalism at an extreme level. Federal officials tell cities that they must enforce federal laws to get federal funds. But the federal government often uses coercive powers of the purse to extract from cities and states what it wants. Many states would currently have a drinking age of 18, but for the federal government cutting off highway funds for non-compliance.

I have long favored a constitutional amendment that says simply:

The government of the United States cannot, through either the provision of or withholding of funds, direct, compel, or otherwise coerce a state or any subdivision thereof to take or refrain from taking any action or to make or refrain from making any law, regulation, or other legally binding order.

When the Supreme Court ruled several years ago that the federal government cannot compel local police to enforce federal laws, conservatives cheered. When the Supreme Court ruled just a few years ago that the federal government cannot compel states to expand Medicaid, conservatives cheered.

Conservatives should actually cheer on liberals wanting sanctuary cities because it ultimately advances our goals, not theirs. When they go to court and find favorable liberal judges giving legal sanction to sanctuary cities, the judges will not be able to carve out exceptions just for state level avoidance of federal immigration enforcement. The same legal logic will apply to other areas as well.

The truth is that sanctuary cities exist because of the voters who vote for the elected officials there. If illegal aliens are murdering the citizens thereof, though tragic, the reality is that it is the voters to ultimately blame, not the elected officials. When illegal aliens overwhelm a city and drag it down to destruction, not a single one of us should offer up a dollar of federal revenue to save the city. Their voters wanted it. We should let them have it.

Yes, it is a ridiculous thing to have liberals in America cheering on illegal aliens at the expense of the safety of their own citizens. But their choice to put their citizens in jeopardy has a side benefit of strengthening federalism and creating binding case law that favors states’ rights.

There will come a time when Democrats again run Washington. They will, at that time, try again to eradicate tenth amendment protections and disrupt federalism. But now, out of power, they are laying the foundation for a very strong wall that will one day protect us from them and their encroachments on states rights. For now, though we may refuse to go to sanctuary cities and we may encourage state governments to crack down on their cities, we should love seeing liberals suddenly embrace states rights and create solid case law for us to use later.


This is a bit of a different take on the sanctuary cities issue and I can see Mr. Erickson’s point. Over the long term, he is probably right, but my concern is in the meantime the country will have absorbed perhaps 20-25 million illegals by then? We will have stretched thin the taxpayer’s ability to fund all of the expenses that those extra people will have cost us in education, welfare, jails, the courts, etc. The way I see it, there is a finite level of funding that our taxpayers can absorb and all of the extra illegal bodies will cause those funds to be spread pretty thin – thereby affecting all legal American citizens.

In summary, over the long haul, Mr. Erickson may be right, but I’d rather see the sanctuary city movement stopped in its tracks NOW.





Categories: Political


5 replies

  1. Once again we see what troubles arise as a consequence of not simply following the Constitution, which would, alas, make our lives so simple.

    When the Obama Administration tried to coerce local school districts into adopting its preferred policy on gender neutral bathrooms by threatening to withhold money, I was outraged – as I have been many times in the past – by a system that’s evolved to allow this to happen. Because we’ve gone along with the creation of a federal Department of Education and the wonton taking of tax monies for the feds to use according to just about any whim they may have, we in the states – in our little cities and towns – are being held hostage to whoever controls the purse strings at any given time. But here’s the difference, as I see it, on the enforcement of immigration policy:

    It is the rightful role of congress and the federal government to make and enforce immigration.

    That being the case, I don’t see it as an offense against state’s rights to punish the states in some way when they defy the Constitution and attempt to co-opt the rightful role of congress by essentially making their own immigration policy. But here’s the great irony: had we simply stayed true to the Constitution the money that’s used by the feds to coerce the states into compliance would probably not be at the fed’s disposal. And the irony doesn’t stop there, because if the federal gov’t would get out of the welfare business and the education business, both of which entail policies that encourage illegal immigration, the states would have their own natural incentives to reject illegal immigration because the full financial burden of caring for a low-skilled, under educated population would fall on its own citizens.

    So you see where the tangled web has led us? Erick Erickson is offering advice made for a system that’s operating as the Founders intended but he’s doing so in a nation that’s gone far astray from the Founders’ dream. The bad consequences owed to the policies of sanctuary cities affect all of us. The illegal immigrant rapist does not have to restrict his crimes to the sanctuary city where he resides. The illegal immigrant who steals someone’s social security number doesn’t restrict his theft to the boundaries of his sanctuary city. All of us are paying for the schooling, welfare subsidies and extra policing/prisons that illegals cost us as a nation. Illegals, by and large, pay little in federal income taxes but they do pay local taxes when they purchase local goods. They offer sanctuary cities a cheap supply of labor at the expense of all American taxpayers. Sanctuary cities are acting in their own self-interest at the expense of everyone else. So given the hand that we’ve been dealt, I say we play with the cards we have and use whatever discretionary spending power the Trump Administration has to force states and other localities to abide by the broader U.S. policy on immigration.


    • Great comment, CW. As I replied to Kathy, it shows ignorance when a city/state accepts federal money and doesn’t expect strings to be attached. It’s part of the funding equation. It’s like the godfather saying, “Someday – and that day may never come – I’ll call upon you to do a service for me.”

      I don’t believe that these “sanctuary” entities understand that protecting illegal aliens comes at the expense of their legal citizens. That means not only in terms of protection from crime but in the services that the entity provides like education, welfare, etc.

      Every dollar that is spent on an illegal is one that can’t be spent on a citizen – how on earth can that be justified to their constituents?


      • The money illegals cost us in net tax outflows is an abstract concept to a lot of people. That’s the beauty of wealth transfer by taxation for those who subscribe to a leftwing ideology. In contrast, the money that’s saved when we write lower checks for gardening, baby sitting, roof work, fast food, and other services that we pay for out of pocket every day is REAL. You can see it in your checkbook balance. That’s why people don’t get it.


  2. I think you have to look at the here and now and deal with that, leaving the idea of making case law as a side effect and not a goal. Yes, he does have a valid point and it would make for good case law later on, but this situation is different than the examples he cited, in that we’re dealing with people who have already broken the law. The libs overlook that point in their rush to keep them here, and as you said, it’s costing all of us a lot of money, and in many cases, it’s costing us innocent lives.

    Looking at it from his perspective then, those states should never have accepted the grant money in the first place if they’re not willing to accept the terms. Using money as leverage is sometimes our only tool and it’s useful at many levels, from sanctions on foreign countries all the way down to your kids’ allowance.


    • Well said, Kathy. It is an immutable law of the cosmos that when a city or state accepts federal money – for anything – it always will come with strings attached. It shows a certain naivete for the cities to now be surprised that Big Daddy wants something in return. The really assinine thing is that what the fed wants is totally not only reasonable but legal. The cities/state don’t have the authority to pick and choose which laws they’ll support and which ones they’ll ignore. The only reason for them to be doing this sanctuary thing is political – for the votes.


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