Are sanctuary cities good for the community?

By Dennis Herrera
[Originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle, April 7, 2017]

There is a reason more than 600 cities and counties across our country have some type of sanctuary policy: They work.

We’re all better off when everyone, regardless of how they came to this country, is willing to report a crime, enroll their children in school and access vaccines.

There is no legal definition of a sanctuary jurisdiction, but generally, it refers to a city or county that chooses to focus its resources on local priorities. Immigration enforcement is the federal government’s job. Public safety is local government’s job.

Cities and counties have to deal with reality: The federal immigration system has been broken for decades, and there are millions of hard-working, undocumented residents in this country. They have built lives here. They are our neighbors, our co-workers, our children’s classmates.

If someone is too afraid to report that they’ve been raped or robbed because they fear deportation, then a criminal goes free. Everyone is less safe. That’s what happens when President Trump tries to force local police to become deportation agents.

A study found that 44 percent of Latinos — and 70 percent of undocumented immigrants — were less likely to contact police if they were the victim of a crime because they feared immigration questions.

Some think sanctuary policies protect criminals. That’s false.

In San Francisco, we follow federal law. The law does not require complying with immigration detainer requests — it outlaws restrictions on sharing citizenship-status information with federal immigration officials. President Trump’s attempt to withhold federal funds on that basis is patently unconstitutional. And we don’t keep people in jail past their legal release date because courts have ruled that too is unconstitutional.

But the federal government has the fingerprints of everyone in San Francisco’s jails. If federal authorities believe someone is dangerous, then all they need is a criminal warrant, which San Francisco honors.

That’s called the rule of law.