Sanctuary cities are largely populous urban crime centers, but there are small enclaves of yuppie political-correctness as well. Sanctuary as a genuine policy largely ceased to exist centuries ago with the decline of the supremacy of the Catholic Church. The rules were pretty stringent. Sanctuary had to be sought within a consecrated church, and it usually applied only if the person seeking sanctuary was holding onto the altar or some religious icon particularly identified with that church or cathedral. Even to our medieval forebears, a sanctuary city would have been an odd concept indeed.
American law does not recognize sanctuary at all—in any state or the federal jurisdiction. It is pure politics, and it has been rather successful as a means of keeping illegal immigrants out of the hands of immigration authorities. Federal law clearly allows the central government to withhold massive federal funds from cities which refuse to cooperate with the federal immigration authorities. So far, almost zero funds have been withheld despite a serious spike in crime committed by illegal immigrants.
Some of this action is predictable as hell, the rest somewhat surprising. First of all, I'll believe it when I see it. It's one thing in an election year to say you're going to prevent government waste by cutting off large sums of money to sanctuary cities. It's quite another to set the legal process in motion. But what is truly surprising is that the Justice Department has asked Holder to pursue Cook County, Illinois. For those who may not know, that's basically Chicago and the Obama suburbs.
In a fit of spite, Holder cut off all federal/state cooperation with Arizona, even after winning a landmark case against Arizona and the Tenth Amendment. At this point, Arizona can do next-to-nothing on its own to protect its borders and its citizens, and Holder doesn't want any illegals turned over to ICE or the Border Patrol even when they are captured under the current crippling standards. If this is a move to get back the votes he lost in Arizona by picking up votes in Illinois, it's a very strange way of doing it.
It may just be a matter of slapping the troops back in line. Even early sanctuary city San Francisco will turn over habitual illegal immigrant felons to the feds. According to John Morton, Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement: “Right now, it's not a question of Cook County releasing some individuals to us. They are releasing no individuals to us, including very violent offenders, and I just don't think that's good policy.”
Even Let 'Em All In DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has jumped on the enforcement bandwagon against Cook County. The pressure on Holder and President Obama from his own people is growing, and with it a political dilemma. Holder and Obama are both products of the Chicago/Cook County Democratic political machine. The current mayor of the Windy City, Rahm Emanuel, was an Obama confidante, and is facing an unprecedented (yes, unprecedented) murder rate on the streets of Chicago. Even though he has not yet weighed in on the problem, Emmanuel is aware of the fact that the high murder rate is being enhanced by the activities of illegal immigrant gangs. But Cook County, among all the sanctuaries, has been the most combative about turning illegals over to the feds.
I guess you would have to call this a falling-out among thieves. Cook County claims that it has received no special demands or interrogatories about its sanctuary policies from the federal government. Spokesman for both Chicago and Cook County say that they have not been told their federal funds might be withheld, and that if it should happen, they would fight tooth and nail.
Cook County is not yet covered by the Secure Communities Act which requires that the fingerprints of all arrested illegal immigrants be turned over to the feds for determination of deportation status. Among the provisions of the Act is that if a prisoner's fingerprints submitted to the FBI pop up on the federal immigration deportation database, the city or county involved is to “detain” the arrestee beyond the time allowed for citizens charged with similar crimes. Thus far, Cook County (which includes the largest Chicago jail) has refused to cooperate. It will be covered by the Secure Communities Act early next year. But that's after the Justice Department puts on its pre-election dog and pony show.
Director Morton apparently attempted to salve wounded feelings at the Cook County offices by trying to work out the fingerprint issue before the Secure Communities Act goes into effect there. Even that effort was rebuffed, so there are some egos involved here as well. This could be a battle royal. Chicago/Cook County is in the same desperate financial condition as all Democrat-controlled big cities. It's broke, and so is the state that might help them out. Under the State Criminal Alien Assistance Act, Cook County has received $13 million in federal assistance money. That is not the only money-for-nothing program that transfers tax money from Washington DC to friendly cities and counties, but it is one of the largest. It's impossible to justify that expense when Cook County refuses to cooperate in even the most minimal way.
This may all be a big ploy to gain the votes of anti-illegal immigrant activists. Holder will likely make big speeches and assign multiple political lawyers to the matter, then make more speeches in the Hispanic communities telling them he won't really interfere with their support of open borders. Nothing will actually happen until after the November election. I still remain mystified by the move, however. Cook County and Chicago are the last places on earth that Obama wants to offend, even a little.
If you have an opinion about why this move at this time, I'd be delighted to hear it. Your theory will probably turn out to be far better than mine.