Sanctuary cities and states' rights

While I am sympathetic to the plight of immigrants in our country, I also understand the need for all states to comply with federal laws. States and cities should not get to choose which laws they obey. Such political attitudes harken back to the defiant lawlessness of states' rights in the South.

Sanctuary cities in the United States and Canada enforce policies to protect illegal immigrants from what people in these cities see as unfair immigration policies. These cities defy "unfair" immigration policies by choosing not to enforce them by having their police withhold information on criminal immigrants from federal immigration officials. Thus illegal immigrants, including those with criminal convictions, escape prison and deportation.

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Congress is in the process of enacting legislation to penalize sanctuary cities by denying federal funds for other programs. This comes in the wake of the brutal slaying of 32-year-old Kate Steinle, allegedly by an illegal alien, in the sanctuary city of San Francisco.

The alleged killer is an illegal immigrant and a seven-time felon who had been deported to Mexico five times. The indifference of San Francisco's politicians to Steinle's murder, from City Hall to the halls of Congress, is alarming and Washington lawmakers crafted Kate's Law to make sanctuary cities accountable for enforcing federal immigration policy to protect other innocent people.

Defiance to federal laws by cities like San Francisco harkens to a darker time in our nation's history. While Washington was enacting civil rights and voting rights legislation to stop Southern disenfranchisement of African-Americans, racist politicians defied these laws in favor of state laws that upheld the poison of segregation.

Southern politicians like Alabama's George Wallace maintained that Alabama law was superior to laws made in Washington by, what he called, "pointy-headed liberals." The state of Alabama, Wallace said, knew what was best for Alabamians, including African-Americans, and according to Wallace a system of racial segregation was best.

Wallace's argument was outrageous. Schools for Alabama's black children were inferior to those of white students. He did not see a problem with that and refused to comply with federal laws to integrate the University of Alabama and all public schools.

Segregation eventually fell in the Deep South, but with the support and guns of the National Guard There was a breakdown of law and order in Alabama and Washington and the military had to step in.

Sanctuary cities also represent a breakdown in law and order. Defiant city mayors and city council members who ambitiously want to advance their political careers support policies — in this case, immigration policies — counter to those set by Congress. They believe their wisdom is greater than Washington's on immigration policy.

These defiant sanctuary city politicians are the modern-day political equivalents of Wallace from the 1960s, except now it is "pointy-headed conservatives" making policies they do not like because it does not fit their political agenda. Ergo, they will ignore Washington and mismanage immigration policy themselves.

Mismanaged sanctuary city policies increase the hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric from politicians like GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and others. It also prevents action on serious legislation to improve immigration policy.

It is a gross generalization for Trump to project an image of all Mexican immigrants as killers and rapists. It is equally wrong for cities to harbor killers and rapists and act as though nothing is wrong with sanctuary city policies.

Supporters of the sanctuary city movement should have considered that criminals and killers would take advantage of sanctuary protections for devious purposes, including rape and murder. Yet, as crimes escalate in brutality in sanctuary cities, the politicians tell Washington that things are safer due to their sanctuary policies. This is the distorted logic of George Wallace from 50 years ago, applied to a different social problem.

Kate Steinle was not safe in the sanctuary city of San Francisco. Congress should pass Kate's Law before more innocent people are killed.

Patterson is a former diplomat who blogs at www.HumanRightsIssues.com.