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Three Cheers for Sanctuary Cities

Sanctuary cities are an exercise in federalism at an extreme level. Federal officials tell cities that they must enforce federal laws to get federal funds.

By Erick Erickson

But the federal government often uses coercive powers of the purse to extract from cities and states what it wants. Many states would currently have a drinking age of 18, but for the federal government cutting off highway funds for non-compliance.

I have long favored a constitutional amendment that says simply:

The government of the United States cannot, through either the provision of or withholding of funds, direct, compel, or otherwise coerce a state or any subdivision thereof to take or refrain from taking any action or to make or refrain from making any law, regulation, or other legally binding order.

When the Supreme Court ruled several years ago that the federal government cannot compel local police to enforce federal laws, conservatives cheered. When the Supreme Court ruled just a few years ago that the federal government cannot compel states to expand Medicaid, conservatives cheered.

Conservatives should actually cheer on liberals wanting sanctuary cities because it ultimately advances our goals, not theirs. When they go to court and find favorable liberal judges giving legal sanction to sanctuary cities, the judges will not be able to carve out exceptions just for state level avoidance of federal immigration enforcement. The same legal logic will apply to other areas as well.

The truth is that sanctuary cities exist because of the voters who vote for the elected officials there. If illegal aliens are murdering the citizens thereof, though tragic, the reality is that it is the voters to ultimately blame, not the elected officials. When illegal aliens overwhelm a city and drag it down to destruction, not a single one of us should offer up a dollar of federal revenue to save the city. Their voters wanted it. We should let them have it.

Yes, it is a ridiculous thing to have liberals in America cheering on illegal aliens at the expense of the safety of their own citizens. But their choice to put their citizens in jeopardy has a side benefit of strengthening federalism and creating binding case law that favors states’ rights.

There will come a time when Democrats again run Washington. They will, at that time, try again to eradicate tenth amendment protections and disrupt federalism. But now, out of power, they are laying the foundation for a very strong wall that will one day protect us from them and their encroachments on states rights. For now, though we may refuse to go to sanctuary cities and we may encourage state governments to crack down on their cities, we should love seeing liberals suddenly embrace states rights and create solid case law for us to use later.

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