Funding the Wrong Fight

Our country is anecdotally being torn apart at the moment over the issue of immigration and refugees.  It’s not as though anybody is doing much on the issue other than screaming at the other side, however.  I don’t see people running out to offer refugees and immigrants a place to live in their own home.  Nor do I see much in terms of actions against immigrants and refugees other than headlines and social media storms.  There’s much room for discussion on this issue, but little substantive discussion seems to be occurring.   And I’ve yet to hear anyone honestly try to grapple with coming up with a solution that would be satisfactory (if not delightful) to both sides.

The issue of sanctuary is one way this fight is playing out on the ground.  Cities have been fond of insisting that they are places of sanctuary – where Federal immigration laws will not be enforced and nobody will be deported from their precincts.  While this issue has gotten attention because of a couple of illegal immigrants who perpetrated violent crimes in the past couple of years, I think that’s ultimately a red herring.  There are dangerous and violent immigrants and refugees just like there are dangerous and violent citizens and people born legally in this country.  Violence is always lamentable but it is a distraction from dealing with the issue at hand – how do we control who comes into our country?  Arguing that we must enforce immigration law because of the possibility of violent people entering our borders, or arguing that such cases are very rare and therefore we should not enforce our immigration laws is a sideshow.  The main issue is our immigration laws.  Either they work or they don’t.  Either they reflect what we as a nation want or they don’t.  If they don’t, we should work to amend or replace them.  If they do, we need to enforce them regardless of whether the people involved are violent or not.

Sanctuary cities are coming under fire from the Federal government, which under President Trump has indicated that it won’t hesitate to cut Federal funding and subsidies to cities that openly violate or refuse to enforce Federal law.  This makes sense to me.  We don’t get to pick and choose which laws we obey or we don’t obey.  Private citizens can’t do this so I don’t see why cities should be able to.  Some cities have reversed their sanctuary stance pretty quickly.  Understandably so.  Talk is a lot less expensive than losing money you need to fund your projects for your citizens.

However, in my progressive state, this attempt to draw cities into line with Federal law is being met with increased resistance, to the point that now the entire state of California could become a ‘sanctuary state’, funded by tax-payer dollars.  SB 6 as I understand it would allow the use of county and city tax monies to provide legal representation to people illegally in our country and state, to prevent them from being deported as per Federal immigration laws.  While this has always been an option through non-profit organizations (which I have no problem with and hope they do their jobs well), the change is that now public tax dollars would be made available for such legal defenses.  I have a huge problem with this.

We’re constantly being told that there isn’t enough money to fund infrastructure projects or education or health care or any number of other important matters.  We’re constantly being subjected to new taxes and bonds in order to pay for these things.  Yet now cities and counties can take the money I pay them in taxes in order to defend people who are breaking the law?

I understand that immigration is complicated.  I understand that people sometimes get caught up in unfortunate situations.  I understand that families are threatened by deportation. I do not like any of these realities.

But if that is what we are concerned about, then we need to spend our money to come up with an immigration policy that works.  Simply throwing taxpayer money down a literally bottomless hole of legislation and legal proceedings on behalf of illegal immigrants will not change policy.  It will not protect the people it alleges to protect, because they will still be at risk of needing such legal representation because the immigration laws don’t change.  At best, this is a delay tactic, a waiting game in hopes that the next president won’t enforce immigration laws.  At worst, it’s a flagrant misuse of taxpayer money that enriches nobody other than the lawyers taking the cases.  Nothing changes, nothing improves, and the problems simply grow and grow and grow.

This is not a new problem.  We’ve been dealing with it for decades.  We still don’t have a good solution.  I should not have to pay more taxes in order to support sanctuary policies that don’t change or improve the situation at all.  This is irresponsible partisan grandstanding.  Both sides are guilty of it, because both sides claim to be unhappy in our current immigration system but are opposed to working in a bi-partisan manner to come up with a solution.  Neither the solution of let everybody/anybody in or keep everybody/anybody out is tenable, nor is it actually desirable by either side, regardless of the polemical headlines.  What we need is a sensible policy that deals with future immigrants while taking into account people who, because of our convoluted policy and enforcement issues, have built their lives in this country.

2 Responses to “Funding the Wrong Fight”

  1. Lois Says:

    Another consideration is that the California economy is somewhat dependent on the labor of illegal immigrants. The governor wants to couch this as a compassion issue, and it may be to some extent, but it is also a financial issue in a state where INS raids get postponed until after the harvest.

    • mrpaulnelson Says:

      Point well taken. The legislation provides no stipulations or limitations as to who funds might be used to defend and on what grounds. I’d be a bit happier if it stipulated that funds would be used to defend people who meet certain criteria (years of residence in the US, family status, employment, etc.), but still feel it is fundamentally misguided to direct tax-payer money to circumventing Federal law rather than attempting to change the law or create certain exemptions for agricultural workers.

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