Monthly Archives: September 2007

No Sanctuary For Lawbreakers

by ,

A group of four US House Republicans recently introduced the Accountability in Enforcing Immigration Laws Act of 2007. In addition to making illegal immigration a felony and several other provisions, H.R. 3531 would punish so-called “sanctuary cities” with loss of federal funds.

Section 203 a) states that “… Effective six months after the date of the enactment of the Act, a State, or political subdivision of a State, that has in effect a statute, policy, or practice that prohibits law enforcement officers of the State, or of a political subdivision within the State, from assisting or cooperating with Federal immigration law enforcement in the course of carrying out the officers’ routine law enforcement duties shall not receive 25 percent of the non-emergency funds that would otherwise be allocated to the State, or to the political subdivision of the State, from the Department of Homeland Security. If the Secretary of Homeland Security determines that such is appropriate, the Secretary may withhold an additional 25 percent of such funds that would otherwise be so allocated.”

Condemnation of providing sanctuary to illegal immigrants is long overdue. Liberal cities throughout the country have enacted ordinances prohibiting their police departments from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. They are not allowed to inquire about the immigration status of those they detain for other reasons, or to pass the information to federal Homeland Security if they somehow acquire it.

This practice is nothing less than obstruction of justice, institutionalized by a city council. Providing sanctuary for illegals goes beyond local government. Certain liberal churches have revived their own version of the medieval practice of offering sanctuary to criminals. Medieval European churches offered murderers, thieves and other accused or convicted criminals up to 40 days sanctuary on church property, after which they had to come to some understanding with legal authorities. The practice was outlawed in England in the late Middle Ages.

In one recent case, Mexican illegal Elvira Arellano was arrested and re-deported after living in sanctuary for more than a year in a Chicago church. Why did immigration authorities have to wait for Arellano to leave the church and travel interstate before arresting her? Arellano should have been arrested in the church, along with the pastor and anyone else who aided her in avoiding arrest. Whatever federal officials decided to honor the church’s sanctuary should be identified and fired, if not prosecuted.

Some Christians protest that the practice of sanctuary was instituted by God in the law handed down to Moses. Indeed, God did require the ancient Israelites to set aside several cities as sanctuaries for those who had killed someone. But those offered sanctuary were fleeing not from legal authority, but from the “avengers of blood:” the next of kin who sought revenge for killings perpetrated by the fugitives. Furthermore, only people who had accidentally killed were eligible for sanctuary. I can find no biblical support for aiding fugitives from justice.

H.R. 3531 is a good first step that deserves our support. Beyond the provisions of that bill, Congress must make it clear that churches have no special status as sanctuaries for lawbreakers.