Sending immigrants to sanctuary cities has consequences — and that's a good thing

From a logical standpoint, the most perplexing recent political squabble has got to be over President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE’s threat — or promise — to place illegal immigrants in sanctuary cities and states while they await processing.

By way of background, both sides in the illegal immigration debate can produce studies, anecdotes and other evidence supporting their particular viewpoints.

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Generally, they break down along these lines:

Pro-illegal immigration:

Illegal immigrants are overwhelmingly good people fleeing bad circumstances in poverty-stricken, gang-ridden or war-torn countries. Illegal immigrants commit less crime per person than do U.S. citizens. Illegal immigrants pay taxes and are a net benefit to the economy. Illegal immigrants are needed for the U.S. workforce, and to do jobs that Americans are unwilling to do. They do not pose health risks. Illegal immigration is not the cause of our drug problems and we should not worry about human trafficking.

Anti-illegal immigration:

Some illegal immigrants are terrible people. Illegal immigrants commit more crime per person than do U.S. citizens, and each crime is a net gain over what would be the case if they weren’t here. Illegal immigrants are a net drain on the economy and cost money. U.S. labor needs can be fulfilled by legal immigrants. Illegal immigrant are exploited and paid substandard wages, often under the table, hurting the market for American workers. They bring illnesses and contagious diseases. Illegal immigration exacerbates our drug problems and has created a market for human trafficking.

Regardless of which view you hold, or even if your views are mixed on this issue, it seems to me that all sides should be able to get behind the president’s threat — or promise. The beauty of it is its simplicity. It doesn’t require litigating who’s correct. It merely accepts the stated view of each side. President Trump is telling illegal immigration supporters: I hear you and am giving you the chance to practice your advocacy. You will receive all the benefits you foresee from illegal immigrants. At the same time, he’s telling illegal immigration opponents: I hear you and will not force you to bear what you see as costs to your communities.

There are consequences to whichever side is wrong, and that’s not a bad thing, either. Those communities that shun illegal immigrants will not receive the benefits, if it turns out they exist. On the other hand, those who welcome illegal immigrants will have to bear the costs or other negative consequences, if it turns out there are any after all.

Additionally, sanctuary cities and states should want to do all they can to keep illegal immigrants from being sent to less welcoming places. The best places for the immigrants’ welfare would seem to be where local policies and laws favor them; for example, where they can receive driver’s licenses, social welfare benefits, in-state or free college tuition — maybe even vote. It would seem to be to nobody’s benefit to house them in places where they are not allowed to drive or not offered favorable college plans and other assistance. 

If illegal immigrants were welcomingly hosted by sanctuary cities and states, there’s an added benefit to all: We would be conducting a valuable social experiment. Within a year, there’s a pretty good chance we would be able to see which side is closer to being correct. The communities that take in masses of illegal immigrants will either be measurably safer and more prosperous, less safe and less prosperous, or some mix thereof.

Therefore, it seems to me there is only one logical response to the president’s threat — or promise. For non-sanctuary cities and states, it would be: “Thank you, President Trump, for not saddling us with the costs of this crisis.” For sanctuary cities and states, it would be: “Welcome to all illegal immigrants. And thank you, President Trump, for rewarding us with all the benefits they bring.”

Sharyl Attkisson (@SharylAttkisson) is an Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist, author of The New York Times best-sellers “The Smear” and “Stonewalled,” and host of Sinclair’s Sunday TV program, “Full Measure.”