February 10, 2023
By Matt O’Brien
When will the sanctuary nonsense stop? American states and cities have absolutely no authority to exempt themselves from federal laws they dislike. Imagine the hue and cry if Rhode Island declared itself exempt from the Endangered Species Act and designated the Narragansett Bay as a new whaling zone?
Aside from the fact that states and municipalities throughout New England keep insisting they’re entitled to ignore the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), immigration isn’t any different from any other area of federal law. The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution sets up a clear divide between federal and state spheres of authority. In legal terms, immigration is a “pre-empted federal field.” States don’t have any authority to regulate immigration and they don’t have any authority to refuse to comply with federal requests made for the purposes of enforcing the INA.
Furthermore, pursuant to Article VI, Paragraph 2 of the Constitution, the Supremacy Clause, federal law generally takes precedence over state laws. Wherever the Constitution confers power exclusively on the federal government, any state laws that conflict with federal legislation are rendered null and void. In plain English, that means states and cities can’t engage in legislative schemes to frustrate federal immigration enforcement efforts.
Nevertheless, that’s exactly what jurisdictions – from Maine to Connecticut – caught up in the sanctuary madness are doing. Take Boston for example, one of the first jurisdictions to jump on the “sanctuary policy” bandwagon. Use of the term “sanctuary” is intended to mislead citizens about the nature of violations committed by illegal aliens and other foreigners who have failed to comply with the terms governing their admission to the United States. “Sanctuary” evokes visions of immigration violators as Medieval, peasants, pursued by the evil Sheriff of Nottingham, seeking protection from kind Friar Tuck, within the walls of the local vicarage.
However, this imagery is utter nonsense. Medieval sanctuary wasn’t a free pass to violate laws one didn’t like. Instead it required parties seeking protection to take one of two courses of action. They could seek legal advice (all lawyers in the Medieval world were churchmen) and submit to royal justice. Or, in the alternative, they could confess their crimes and abjure the realm (i.e. self-exile), forfeiting all property to the crown.
What modern sanctuary advocates don’t understand is that sanctuary was never permanent and it was never about foreigners evading all consequences of their actions. Rather, it was about ensuring that British subjects who were accused of a crime had a temporary opportunity to seek spiritual and legal counsel from the church, which was, at the time, a separate sovereign.
England abandoned sanctuary around the time of the Reformation, well before the establishment of permanent British colonies in North America. As a result, it was never a part of the Anglo-American common law applied in New England. Nevertheless, despite the fact that sanctuary was a dead legal concept roughly a century before William Blaxton founded the city of Boston in 1630, the buffoons currently in charge of Beantown insist that they’re serving some higher civil rights interest by actively abetting foreign nationals in evading immigration authorities.
Recently, the Boston Police Department triumphantly claimed that, acting pursuant to the Hub’s “Trust Act,” it refused to hand over a dozen criminal aliens to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). But, according to Breitbart News the real number was over 100. None of those demands were denied because the requests made by ICE were legally improper. Instead, BPD gave ICE the brush-off because engaging in virtue signaling nonsense on behalf of foreign criminals is apparently more important than protecting the citizens who inhabit the Cradle of Liberty.
We don’t know what the 100 aliens in BPD custody were charged with. The reporting requirements in the city’s sanctuary ordinance don’t require any data beyond the fact that the individuals in question were sought by ICE. However, we can say two things for certain: 1) Whatever these folks did, BPD felt compelled to arrest them on suspicion of having committed a criminal violation of the General Laws of the Commonwealth; and 2) ICE had cause to believe they were subject to deportation.
Instead of seizing an opportunity to rid the Hub of over 100 alien criminals who likely shouldn’t have been here in the first place, the BPD took an opportunity to score points with the woke pseudo-intellectuals who inhabit pubs on Commonwealth Avenue and coffee houses across the river in Cambridge. Meanwhile regular Bostonians from the Fenway to Jamaica Plain ought to be asking themselves, how safe will they remain, if the sanctuary madness continues and Boston’s finest continue to aid foreign thugs instead of protecting U.S. citizens?
Matt O’Brien is a native of Lynn, Massachusetts from a family of Irish and Swedish immigrants. He is the director investigations at the Immigration Reform Law Institute. Immediately prior to working for IRLI he served as an Immigration Judge. He has nearly 30 years of experience in immigration law and policy, having held numerous positions within the Department of Homeland Security.
Also published at The Boston Herald, February 10, 2023.
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