The sanctuary movement initiated in the 1980s to protect Central Americans from being deported is no longer a shelter in a Los Angeles church, as Father Luis Olivares named it in 1985. Today, there are hundreds of towns, universities, schools and religious centers that are ready to confront a federal onslaught against undocumented immigrants
The threat is very real.
President-elect Donald Trump says that his goal is to deport between two and three million criminals without papers. It is an exaggerated number, as such an amount undocumented criminals just does not exist.
But this number can be reached quickly if, instead of looking for dangerous immigrants, a cast net is thrown to catch anyone: dreamers, workers, mothers, legal residents with minor problems, etc.
Sanctuary cities like Los Angeles and New York, which refuse to collaborate indiscriminately with the immigration authorities, are vital to protect its residents: Those who, even without papers, enrich them with their contributions.
Several measures are already making the rounds in Congress seeking to punish those cities for not being an appendix at the service of immigration authorities, and because their law officers do not ask for papers anyone with an accent or who dresses in some particular way.
The legislative proposals generally threaten to cut federal funding for the near 400 towns self-declared sanctuaries. Many of them have been slowly building a legal defense and a court appeal, where the final battle will take place.
In the middle of this, it is outrageous that federal legislators from Washington are seeking to annul local decisions claiming to protect citizens.
If Angelinos and New Yorkers decide they don’t want to live in a sanctuary city, they can elect new municipal leaders. This is not a case of abuse, majority oppression or curtailing anyone’s rights or freedoms.
It is ironic that Republicans, traditionally the main defenders of local government, are trying to impose their ideas from Washington when they fail to prevail at the local level.
The sanctuary movement is rooted in the American tradition of defending honest, hard-working minorities from the fears of the majority. This is not the same as protecting killers, as some would like us to believe. This is about telling one and the other apart, and you don’t need Congress for that.