ISSN 2330-717X

Robert Reich: Why We Need Sanctuary States – OpEd

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California lawmakers have just passed “sanctuary state” legislation – the first state since Oregon, which 30 years ago passed a law preventing state agencies from targeting undocumented immigrants solely because of their illegal status.

Other states should follow California’s and Oregon’s lead.

Since January, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered immigration authorities to target “public safety” threats, federal arrests of undocumented immigrants have increased by over 37 percent. California is home to an estimated 2.3 million unauthorized immigrants.

California’s law limits the authority of state and local law enforcers to communicate with federal immigration authorities, and prevents officers from questioning or holding people depending on their immigration status or immigration violations. But it still allows federal immigration authorities to enter county jails to question immigrants, and allow police and sheriffs to share information on people who have been convicted of serious crimes.

This is a fair balance. Sanctuary protections like these make sense because:

1. Under them, undocumented immigrants are more likely to come forth with information about crime when doing so won’t put them at risk of deportation. This improves public safety and builds trusts with law enforcement.

2. By contrast, turning state and local police into immigration agents invites more crime because it diverts limited time and resources to rounding up undocumented immigrants.

3. Undocumented immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born citizens, so it makes even less sense for local and state police to spend their precious time and resources rounding them up.

4. A dragnet aimed at finding and deporting all of America’s 11 million unauthorized immigrants is cruel, costly, and contemptible. It turns this country into more of a police state, breaks up families, and hurts the economy.

We must resist Jeff Sessions and his dragnet. Help make your state a sanctuary.


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Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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