Sanctuary Idealism Crashes into Reality  


December 22, 2022

By Brian Lonergan

The late, great Rush Limbaugh frequently opined on his radio show that progressivism’s appeal stems from the fact that its followers are required to do nothing but “care.” Simply vent empathy or outrage—especially on social media—on behalf of an approved left-wing cause, and your otherwise dreary life can seem meaningful in the belief that you are both morally superior to your ideological opponents and also saving the world. It’s a seductive pitch that has been all too successful.

The political benefit of this philosophy has not been lost on state and local elected leaders, many of whom are true believers anyway. They enthusiastically virtue signal on numerous issues, and one of their favorites is sanctuary policies as a purported act of mercy toward illegal aliens. For years this was populism on easy mode, as politicians basked in the approval from their activist base without having to do much hard work.

Thanks to a combination of the Biden Administration’s disastrous border policies and fed-up red state governors, the party is over as sanctuary rhetoric is crashing into reality, and the curtain is being pulled back to expose the folly of sanctuary policies.

Evidence of this phenomenon can be seen in the words of immigration realpolitik coming from the most unlikely places. In California, a hotbed of irrational sanctuary policies, leftist Governor Gavin Newsom recently toured the border area in his state and warned of dire consequences should the White House succeed in its quest to end Title 42 border enforcement.

“The fact is, what we’ve got right now is not working and is about to break in a post-42 world unless we take some responsibility and ownership,” he said.

Advertising a community as a haven for noncitizens who have violated our immigration laws to get here welcomes overcrowding, crime and chaos.

Responsibility? Ownership? These are uncharted waters for Newsom. He has spent most of his governorship pandering to noncitizens with initiatives like universal healthcare and state IDs for illegal aliens. For someone like Newsom to be warning that the end is near is a sign that we may be approaching a point of no return with Biden’s border sabotage.

Big-city mayors in particular have benefited from being sanctuary advocates. They’re now admitting the obvious truth that sanctuary policies are unsustainable. Since Governors Greg Abbott of Texas, Ron DeSantis of Florida and Doug Ducey of Arizona began sending busloads of migrants to New York City, Mayor Eric Adams has been forced to walk a tightrope of defending sanctuary policies while acknowledging his city is struggling to accept the new arrivals.

Like Newsom, Adams warned of the consequences should the Title 42 order expire, stating that his city may be forced to cut public services to prioritize the flow of up to 1,000 border crossers every week.   

“Our shelter system is full, and we are nearly out of money, staff, and space,” Adams said in a statement. “Truth be told, if corrective measures are not taken soon, we may very well be forced to cut or curtail programs New Yorkers rely on, and the pathway to house thousands more is uncertain.”

It is not hard to read between the lines to see what Adams means by “corrective measures:” a nine-figure federal subsidy to the city to offset the astronomical cost of accommodating so many destitute foreigners. It’s a request that Biden will likely grant, given it is our money and not his.

After other sanctuary supporters like Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser and the summer residents of Martha’s Vineyard similarly balked at the bus and planeloads of illegal aliens sent to their locales, the truth on this matter is now incontrovertible: even under the veil of altruistic oratory, sanctuary policies are foolish and incompatible with reality.

Advertising a community as a haven for noncitizens who have violated our immigration laws to get here welcomes overcrowding, crime and chaos. Spending finite resources on these arrivals means that legal residents of the community, many of them homeless, drug-addicted and mentally ill, will be denied the benefit of those resources.

If migrants flooding a city is not workable for places like New York City, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., why must it be forced upon McAllen, El Paso and other border cities and towns? Their citizens have not asked for the current border policies, yet they have seen their communities overrun while the executive branch that created the situation is indifferent to their plight.

While America groans under the strain of the last two years, this time has served to debunk some bad ideas and confirm some hard truths. Politicians can broadcast their own compassion all they want, but that does not make for sound and effective leadership. Communities need leaders who will act in the best interests of the community first and foremost. There should be no points given to politicians who claim to be saving the world while imploding their communities in the process.

Brian Lonergan is director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration. 

Also published at American Greatness, December 22, 2022 and The Florida Capital Star, December 27, 2022.

Get Connected

Sign up for our email newsletter to stay up to date with immigration reform in the United States.

Attorneys United for a Secure America (AUSA) is a non-partisan affiliation of talented attorneys dedicated to pursuing cases that serve the national interest when it comes to immigration law.

If you are interested in joining the network, visit the AUSA website.