This article was last updated on May 25, 2022
A sanctuary bill has been introduced into the Washington state legislature. Its sponsors call it the "Washington Family Unit Act", but in fact, what the law does is shield alien criminals from identification and apprehension by federal immigration authorities.
The bill is a model of duplicity and hypocrisy, from the title onward. For instance, are we to believe that all aliens taken into custody by police for crimes have family members in the United States, and are therefore entitled to be shielded from the deportation consequences that flow from arrests and convictions? If so, that doesn't say much for the law-abiding nature of aliens who are unlawfully present, does it? On the other hand, if they don't all have families here, what's unifying about harboring them by refusing to let state or local police cooperate with immigration agents in the performance of their respective duties? Then there's the small matter of citizens dealt with by the state's criminal justice system. When those citizens are sentenced to jail, aren't they, too, separated from their families, often for years at a time? Of course, but oh well, so sad, too bad. They get what they deserve. It's only aliens who deserve disparate treatment and double standards.
But the bill isn't just disingenuous. By its plain language, it violates federal law. Section 4.(3)(a)(ii) of the bill (p. 4) prohibits police from allowing immigration agents access to aliens for the purpose of interview and from providing booking lists to them. The bill goes so far as to establish penalties for offending law enforcement departments. These provisions, however, are contrary to 8 U.S.C. 1644, which states very clearly that "Notwithstanding any other provision of federal, state, or local law, no state or local government entity may be prohibited, or in any way restricted, from sending to or receiving from the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of an alien in the United States." Further, 8 U.S.C. 1373 provides that "[A] federal, state, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual."
Then, finally — lest you give them credit for taking a stance that's mistaken, but at least based on their moral principles — consider that Section 10 (p. 8) says, "If any part of this act is found to be in conflict with federal requirements that are a prescribed condition to the allocation of funds to the state, the conflicting part of this act is inoperative solely to the extent of the conflict."
Ah, yes, the money. The state wishes to thumb its nose at the federal government while holding its other hand out, like an orphan waif in a Dickens novel.
Out of curiosity, I took a look at the website for the federal Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to see how much the state and its political subdivisions have received in State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) funding. The answer is $2,013,931 in 2014 alone. Keep in mind that the funding is provided to state and local governments to help them recover the costs associated with alien criminals. How ironic that they receive federal money while impeding the efforts to control illegal immigration, particularly where it involves crime. Keep in mind also that the state receives millions more from the BJA for various COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) grants, plus additional bucks from the Department of Homeland Security (which is responsible for immigration enforcement functions) under its own grant programs.
Rarely does one get to see such cynicism in action. It suggests to me that Mark Twain simply was not expansive enough when he said, "Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself." Apparently there are some state legislators equally deserving of such scorn.
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