Texas governor Greg Abbott has signed into law statutes “outlawing” sanctuary cities. Was he right or wrong in doing so? Once we know the facts, it will be clear that not only did Abbott not do anything wrong, but had an obligation to do what he did. Legally speaking, Abbott and the Texas legislators did not actually create any “new” laws. What they did was create a law to require enforcement of the Constitution and the federal laws already on the books. Abbott and the Texas legislators did not “outlaw” sanctuary cities, the Constitution and federal law already did that.
The Constitution is a contract between the States that created the federal government. By this contractual agreement, certain powers were delegated to the federal government and the remaining powers were reserved to the States. The States, in joining the Union, have agreed to abide by and enforce the terms of the Contract. Also, in doing so, the States of the Union agree that the powers delegated to the federal government will be respected and enforced by the States as long as the federal government is operating by and through the authority of their power delegated by the Constitution. By the contractual agreement, through the creation of the Constitutional Contract, every State that enters into the Union agrees to the terms of this Contract.
Article 1 section 8 clause 4 vests into the federal government the power to Congress to make “an uniformed Rule of Naturalization.” It is therefore, and by contract, within the power of the federal government to create the rules for Naturalization. This power was delegated to the federal government for very specific reasons. Previous to the Constitution, there was a significant problem with inconsistent standards for foreign people to become and enjoy the benefits of citizenship. It is not uniform when the terms vary from State to State. We needed to establish uniformity amongst the States. There can be different standards of citizenship for people from different foreign countries, but all the different rules must be enforced with uniformity from State to State.
James Madison, designated by history as the Father of the Constitution, explains the problems these inconsistencies create:
“The very improper power would still be retained by each State, of naturalizing aliens in every other State. In one State, residence for a short term confirms all the rights of citizenship: in another, qualifications of greater importance are required. An alien, therefore, legally incapacitated for certain rights in the latter, may, by previous residence only in the former, elude his incapacity; and thus the law of one State be preposterously rendered paramount to the law of another, within the jurisdiction of the other.” Fed #42
Madison is explaining that one State’s laws cannot bind those people of another State, as each State is separate and independent in their internal affairs. For example, California laws cannot be made enforceable with in the State of Texas. If the States were left to create the rules of naturalization, then one State’s rules would not transfer to the next State. Each foreign person would have to seek citizenship in each individual State, fulfilling potentially different terms each time. If citizenship is left to a State by State establishment, there would be confusion throughout the world on what it would take to become a citizen.
What if each State were required to honor the terms of citizenship of the other State, perhaps through Article 4 section 1, “full faith and credit?” This brings about a series of problems that Madison also brings to our attention in Federalist 42:
“By the laws of several States, certain descriptions of aliens, who had rendered themselves obnoxious, were laid under interdicts inconsistent not only with the rights of citizenship but with the privilege of residence. What would have been the consequence, if such persons, by residence or otherwise, had acquired the character of citizens under the laws of another State, and then asserted their rights as such, both to residence and citizenship, within the State proscribing them? Whatever the legal consequences might have been, other consequences would probably have resulted, of too serious a nature not to be provided against.”
Madison is reminding us about a problem they were having when some States were creating very lax rules of naturalization; allowing people the benefits of citizenship who were actually hostile to the principles that established the Liberty of these States. When those people, who were unfriendly to the principles of Liberty, obtained citizenship in one State, they would attempt to force other States to honor their citizenship. Because these States had higher standards of citizenship, they were refusing to do so. This created several serious problems.
According to Madison, the danger of States allowing people hostile to the principles of America to obtain the benefits of citizenship would created a cascade of serious of problems dangerous to our foundational principles. Once these “obnoxious” aliens obtain the “benefits of residency” they will possess the power to vote, occupy office, make laws within that State. Finally, with all these powers asserted, these “obnoxious” aliens will exercise a certain degree of influence and control over the federal government, as well. Madison describes this as bringing about consequences of “too serious a nature not to be provided against.” Fed #42
The whole purpose of creating the federal government was to create a uniform voice for the States in the matters of foreign affairs. The federal government also holds the responsibility to exercise their authority with the “general welfare” all the States equally in mind while ensuring that people who will threaten the “common defense” and “domestic tranquility” will not be permitted to exercise the benefits of citizenship.
Madison explains that it was for these reasons that the power of naturalization was delegated to the federal government; to prevent these “serious” consequences from becoming a reality.
“The new Constitution has accordingly, with great propriety, made provision against them, and all others proceeding from the defect of the Confederation on this head, by authorizing the general government to establish a uniform rule of naturalization throughout the United States.”
The power of uniform rules of naturalization was delegated to the federal government so the States will have the ability to agree, through their representatives in the House and Senate, on the uniformed rules to be respected and enforced throughout the States. By contract, each State is now bound by those rules established pursuant to the Constitution. Sanctuary cities are unilaterally and illegally breaking the terms of the Constitutional contract established by each of the 50 States.
Because these sanctuary cities are refusing to abide by the uniform rules of naturalization they are actually asserting that their laws are superior to the laws of every other State in the Union; that a city can now dictate to the entire Union the terms and benefits of citizenship upon any alien, obnoxious or otherwise, as they so choose. Sanctuary cities are the real-time manifestation of the “too serious consequences” Madison said the designers of our Constitution intended to prevent. The States that allow their cities to go rogue, are acting in concert to violate the terms of the Constitution and they must ultimately bear the responsibility of enforcing the terms of the contract they agreed to.
Sanctuary cities are not only acting unconstitutionally, they are also acting unlawfully. In accordance with Article 1 section 8 clause 4, Congress has created legal penalties for those who knowingly or recklessly disregard the rules of naturalization and “conceal, harbor, or shield from detection, or attempt to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection… transport, or move or attempt to transport or move” or to even “encourage or induce” an illegal alien “to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowingly or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law.” (8 US Code 1324) It is not only a crime to actually commit these offenses, but it is a crime to even attempt to do so. Anyone found guilty of violating 8 US Code 1324 is subject to fines, prison or both. However, if it can be proven that this person has committed this act for personal gain, the fines go up and the prison sentence can be as much as ten years.
Sanctuary cities also violate 8 US Code 1611 which sets forth specific federal benefits that cannot be given to illegal aliens.
(NOTE: there is an exception for emergency services in this section)
Section 1611 defines a benefit as follows:
“(A) any grant, contract, loan, professional license, or commercial license provided by an agency of the United States or by appropriated funds of the United States; and
(B) any retirement, welfare, health, disability, public or assisted housing, postsecondary education, food assistance, unemployment benefit, or any other similar benefit for which payments or assistance are provided to an individual, household, or family eligibility unit by an agency of the United States or by appropriated funds of the United States.”
Additionally, the entire time these illegal aliens are living in these sanctuary cities they will not only be receiving benefits, these cities will be encouraging other illegal aliens to come into the United States while housing, feeding, transporting, and shielding them from prosecution for violating federal immigration laws.
Now, if these sanctuary cities were a person, what would be the punishment for the above violations? The law states:
“for each alien in respect to whom a violation of this [law] occurs…be fined in accordance with title 18 or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; or…
Any person who, during any 12-month period, knowingly hires for employment at least 10 individuals with actual knowledge that the individuals are aliens described in subparagraph (B) shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both.”
Finally, if granting these benefits to illegal aliens “was done for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain” then the punishment is fines under title 18, “imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.”
These sanctuary cities have made it clear that they are not going to follow the law. It is now the obligation of their States to enforce the terms of the Constitution and ensure the enforcement of immigration laws. It is the obligation of the executive branch of the federal government to ensure that these laws are faithfully executed. It is the obligation of our Congress to ensure that federal money is not spent by these sanctuary cities in their efforts to disregard the law.
As America engages in this discussion over sanctuary cities, I would hope that these matters of Constitution, law, fact, and history would dominate the narrative.