Sanctuary and Consistency

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Gov. Jerry Brown says he wants changes to the sanctuary state law working its way through the legislature. While conjecture is that he wants to make sure that criminal immigrants don’t get protection under the law, there may also be a sense of gaining consistency in the state’s viewpoint of the on-going rhetorical battle with the federal government over immigration status.

California is opposed to the federal government withholding money to cities that grant sanctuary status to illegal immigrants. The basis of the opposition is that the feds cannot dictate to state and local governments.

The California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, wants to sue the federal government to prevent the feds from denying public safety grants to some California cities that have declared sanctuary city status for unauthorized immigrants in the country. Brown is on board with that.

The lawsuit reportedly is challenging the federal denial of funds as unconstitutional. Congress never gave the Justice Department the power to withhold funds, Becerra contends. In the past, the AG has spoken of using the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to thwart federal power. That amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

While no constitutional argument is raised in the state action, yet, the sanctuary state bill in effect dictates to all California cities that sanctuary status applies. One size fits all on what local law enforcement can do when it comes to immigrants.

So California policy-making is shaping up as a case of do as I say, not as I do. The feds should not punish local governments from declaring policy on sanctuary status, but the state can blanket local governments with a sanctuary policy.

Brown questions whether the word sanctuary even applies beyond the historic meaning related to church sanctuary. He worries about the legality of the state policy. And, he just may be concerned about the inconsistent philosophy behind the state’s proposed actions.

I am aware of the oft-repeated Ralph Waldo Emerson quote: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” But with public policy, consistency can be a virtue.

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