Obama Administration Refuses to Sue Sanctuary Cities
Less than a week after suing Arizona to block its immigration law, SB 1070, critics are pressing the Obama administration to go after “sanctuary cities” that deliberately look the other way when it comes to illegal immigration. The Department of Justice last week responded that it will not sue these cities, which prohibit local law enforcement from inquiring about an individual’s legal status or alerting immigration authorities when they encounter illegal immigrants, because it believes passive refusal to follow the law is not as egregious as Arizona’s passage of a law that “actively interferes” with federal law. Justice Department spokeswoman for Attorney General Eric Holder inexplicably argued, “There is a big difference between a state or locality saying they are not going to use their resources to enforce a federal law, as so-called sanctuary cities have done, and a state passing its own immigration policy that actively interferes with federal law.” (The Washington Times, July 14, 2010).
Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), who authored the 1996 federal law which requires states and localities to cooperate with federal authorities on immigration enforcement, criticized the Justice Department’s politically convenient stance on sanctuary cities. "For the Justice Department to suggest that they won't take action against those who passively violate the law …. is absurd," said Rep. Smith. "Will they ignore individuals who fail to pay taxes? Will they ignore banking laws that require disclosure of transactions over $10,000? Of course not." (The Washington Times, July 14, 2010).
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has also noted the irony of the Obama administration’s refusal to sue localities to strike down their sanctuary policies, which she said could also be considered a “patchwork” of immigration laws across the country. (Brewer Statement, July 6, 2010). Senator David Vitter (R-LA) similarly noted, “This administration’s idea of immigration enforcement is to go after the states and local officials actually trying to enforce the laws on the books. They are demonizing those that look to protect our border and end illegal immigration while giving a wink and nod of approval to sanctuary cities that don't enforce our laws.” (Vitter Press Release, July 15, 2010).