Aztec, N.M., maintains it is no “sanctuary,” and for months has led a campaign to shed the designation.
Image has not been found. URL: /wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Sanctuary_08061-480x320.jpgProtesters in San Francisco call for an end to the city's "sanctuary" policies for illegal immigrants. (Flickr, Steve Rhodes)
Last week, Joshua Ray, the manager of the small town of Aztec, N.M., received text messages from a few friends and colleagues telling him to tune into a local talk radio program. He did, only to hear callers decrying Aztec for harboring undocumented aliens, turning a blind eye to illegal immigration and acting as a “sanctuary city.”
It was not the first time Ray has gotten an earful on the topic. In 2006, the Congressional Research Service listed Aztec and 31 other towns and cities across the United States as having “sanctuary policies” — generally meaning that they instruct local law enforcement to leave the enforcement of federal laws, like immigration laws, to federal officials. Ever since then, Aztec city officials have not stopped getting complaints from advocacy groups and citizens concerned about the city tolerating or even encouraging illegal immigration — and the calls have only gotten louder and more frequent since Arizona enacted a controversial, and now overturned, law requiring local officials to detain and verify the status of people they arrest and suspect are in the country without authorization.
Indeed, the Arizona law has turned up the volume on the politics of immigration enforcement in all the “sanctuary cities” — particularly given a spate of apocryphal reports indicating undocumented workers might flee Arizona for more welcoming environs. The debate comes down to the degree to which local officials need to enforce federal laws. (Even President Obama has argued the variance in enforcement is too great, creating a “patchwork” of rules.) On one side of the spectrum is Arizona, which in SB 1070 attempted to require even small-town police officers to ensure the immigration status of individuals. On the other side of the spectrum are “sanctuary cities” that specifically instruct local officials not to bother.
“It’s kind of like the opposite of Arizona: They don’t want to be engaged in the process of policing immigration,” explains Aarti Kohli, director of immigration policy at Berkeley Law School’s Warren Institute. “It’s a communication to their communities that, ‘We don’t want to talk on the federal functions of immigration enforcement, we’re going to focus on our local functions.’”
Critics argue these policies weaken the country’s ability to combat illegal immigration. “If the government does not want to enforce [immigration laws] they basically become ineffective,” Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for The Federation for American Immigration Reform told TWI. “If you make it very clear that the law will be enforced, a lot of illegal aliens will decide it’s not worth sticking around.”
But the “sanctuary cities” themselves often dispute the title, arguing the CRS report mischaracterizes them and noting that they do not have the resources to enforce federal laws. Aztec, for instance, maintains it is no “sanctuary,” and for months has led a campaign to shed the designation. City officials have asked websites listing Aztec as a “sanctuary city” to remove it. They have asked media outlets to stop referring to it as a “sanctuary city.” And they have performed their own public relations: When Ray heard the radio program, he called in to explain that Aztec officials do not protect illegal immigrants from enforcement, they just “don’t.”
Houston Mayor Annise Parker told the Texas Tribune her city is “no sanctuary” in March, while Albuquerque, N.M., Mayor Richard Berry declared in May his city was putting an end to any sanctuary policies. Don Elder, mayor of Katy, Texas, said he firmly objects to Katy being called a sanctuary city because local law enforcement works with Immigration and Customs Enforcement “constantly.” (The lines of communication weren’t always so smooth — Elder said the city used to have trouble contacting ICE about suspected illegal immigrants, but with help from Rep. Michael McCaul (R) now has no trouble.)
He said he advocates harsher immigration policies, but he wants the state — or, ideally, the federal government — to act first. “Why would want to put an ordinance in there if our president doesn’t even back us?” Elder said. “He wants us free. He wants us wide open.”
Even cities proud of their immigrant-friendly policies object to being called “sanctuary cities.” Durham, N.C., a left-leaning city near Raleigh, voted this spring to ban travel to Arizona because of SB 1070. “Any designation of a ‘sanctuary city,’ I don’t know where that comes from,” Thomas Bonfield, Durham city manager, told TWI. The city cooperates with federal officials, and in 2008 joined ICE’s 278(g) program, which trains local police to enforce some immigration laws.
And San Francisco — the one city to embrace the title — also helps the federal government enforce immigration law. This year, it signed on this year to Secure Communities, a federal program that requires local police to provide fingerprints of those they arrest to ICE officials.
Many cities on the “sanctuary cities” list say they would like to see an update to the 2006 CRS report that started the trouble, picked up by pro-enforcement and anti-immigration websites and distributed far and wide. The list was altered once before: A spokesman for the city of Fresno, Calif., told TWI the city was incorrectly placed on the list in 2005, then removed from the 2006 version. (Calls to the Congressional Research Service were not returned.)
And ultimately, the cities do not offer any “sanctuary” anyway — the term is so broad as to be meaningless, immigration experts argue. More often than not, it is simply that these cities do not want to waste state resources on a federal responsibility. And the idea that undocumented workers might leave Arizona for San Francisco or Raleigh due to the label is also risible: Economics and family ties strongly dictate internal movement. “If there’s a ‘sanctuary city’ out there with a very welcoming environment that has no jobs, you’re not going to see a lot of migration there,” says Jacob Vigdor, a Duke public policy and economics professor.
Still, some immigrants’ rights advocates argue that city leaders are disingenuous in their urge to throw off the title. “It’s kind of laughable to come out and say ‘we’re not a sanctuary city’ if you haven’t changed your policies or practices,” said Marcela Diaz of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, a group that lobbies for immigrant-friendly policies in New Mexico. “We’re trying to convince people that we’re not this random name or concept, but we’ve never thought of Santa Fe or New Mexico as a sanctuary state.”
EPA Administrator Addresses Concerns About Oil Spill Waste Management
At a hearing of the national oil spill commission today, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson addressed concerns about waste disposal from
EPA administrator defends allowing Florida to write its own water pollution rules
The EPA seal (Pic via sentryjournal.com) The Environmental Protection Agency has come under fire for its decision to allow the state of Florida to write its own water pollution rules (known as “numeric nutrient criteria”). EPA Regional Administrator Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming is now firing back, writing that the Agency commends the state Department of Environmental Protection for its draft of a proposed standard. A host of environmental groups filed suit in 2008, seeking to compel the EPA to implement a strict set of water pollution standards in Florida, arguing that the state was in violation of the Clean Water Act.
EPA administrator says federal nutrient criteria is a ‘myth’
In testimony given late last week, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that false accusations about her agency’s numeric nutrient criteria to govern Florida waterways are proving to be a detriment to their implementation. # Testifying before the House Agriculture Committee, Jackson said her agency’s work was often “mischaracterized” and addressed several myths surrounding its work
E-Verify Mandate Begins Today
The Obama administration today begins implementation of a new mandate to require all federal contractors to check the legal status of their employees to confirm
EPA administrator fires back at critics in op-ed
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (Pic by USACEpublicaffairs, via Flickr) EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson penned a new op-ed for the Los Angeles Times , criticizing House Republicans desperately seeking to undermine the authority of the agency they have dubbed a “job killer.” Arguing that the environment affects red states and blue states alike, Jackson writes that “it is time for House Republicans to stop politicizing our air and water.” As head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Jackson has faced harsh criticism from House Republicans and GOP presidential candidates who say the agency’s regulations are an undue burden on businesses that have to cut jobs simply to comply with clean water and air rules. Presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann has pledged to end the EPA if she takes office. “Since the beginning of this year, Republicans in the House have averaged roughly a vote every day the chamber has been in session to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency and our nation’s environmental laws,” writes Jackson.
EPA and California Near Deal on Fuel Efficiency Standards
Two weeks ago, the Obama administration raised fuel efficiency standards by an average of two miles per gallon -- a modest change that disappointed some
EPA announces hold on nutrient standards if Florida can come up with own criteria
The EPA announced today that it is now prepared to withdraw a portion of its proposed numeric nutrient criteria (a set of standards governing water pollution in inland waters) and delay the portion related to estuarine waters, to allow the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop its own criteria. # From a statement released by the EPA earlier today: # EPA recognizes that states have the primary role in establishing and implementing water quality standards for their waters. Therefore, EPA is prepared to withdraw the federal inland standards and delay the estuarine standards if FDEP adopts, and EPA approves, their own protective and scientifically sound numeric standards
EPA biologist says fracking may be partly to blame for West Virginia fish kill
New documents obtained by an environmental news service show that an EPA analyst believes that wastewater from fracking may be partly responsible for a fish kill in a West Virginia river. Scientific American reports : U.S
EPA Chief Overruled Calif. Waiver, Too
The Washington Post reported in March that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson was overruled by the White House in setting an ozone standard. Now, documents