Editorial: Sanctuary label too broad

Topeka Capital Journal

Rep. Kevin Yoder and other members of Congress want to punish cities and counties across the country for not doing a job — enforcing federal immigration laws — that generally is the responsibility of the federal government and its U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Granted, history shows ICE is exceptionally inept when it comes to enforcing our immigration laws, but that is no reason to threaten to withhold Federal Emergency Management Agency grant funds from cities and counties whose law enforcement officials have plenty of their own work to do.

Under an amendment to federal legislation being championed by Yoder, any state, city or county determined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to not be fully enforcing federal immigration laws would be labeled a “sanctuary” for illegal immigrants and thus ineligible for FEMA grants. The amendment would require the Department of Homeland Security to compile a list of sanctuary cities, counties and states by March 1 of each year. According to theCenter for Immigration Studies, Johnson, Shawnee, Sedgwick, Finney, Harvey and Butler counties now could be labeled sanctuaries.

Those counties apparently have earned their notoriety for stating their intention not to honor requests by ICE to hold people without probable cause or an order from a judge. The counties adopted that policy in the wake of federal rulings that found ICE hold requests aren’t binding and local authorities could become liable for detaining people who haven’t been charged with a crime or for which they don’t have a warrant, a show of probable cause or a judge’s order.

It also costs counties to hold people in jail, and a request from ICE to hold someone doesn’t necessarily mean the federal authorities are going to arrive anytime soon to take control of the prisoner. Until they do, the local taxpayers likely are on the hook for the room and board.

Sanctuaries became a hot topic earlier this month when an illegal immigrant who had been deported to Mexico several times returned again (Who is responsible for that?) and allegedly shot to death a 32-year-old San Francisco woman. It was reported the man said he went to San Francisco because it was a sanctuary city.

The man could just as well have said he came to the United States because, given the number of illegal immigrants living here, it appears to be a sanctuary country.

As it is, Shawnee County isn’t refusing to help federal authorities enforce immigration laws. Local officials just don’t want the county sued for holding people without cause.

Members of The Capital-Journal Editorial Advisory Board are Gregg Ireland, Mike Hall, Fred Johnson, Ray Beers Jr., Garry Cushinberry, John Stauffer,Frank Ybarra, Jessica Hosman and Laura Burton.