Not content with just how much they have successfully kept illegal aliens from being deported, a consensus appears to have emerged recently among politicians in multiple sanctuary states: their next major sanctuary policy to adopt is trying to keep federal immigration authorities out of state and local government buildings, primarily schools, hospitals and especially courthouses. The details differ, but the idea is the same, and those pushing it are driving their states headlong towards a potentially dangerous confrontation with the federal government.
Given its record of churning out new benefits and protections for illegal aliens, you’d probably expect California to have taken the lead on this, but not quite. At the end of January, the state Senate passed a bill to prohibit federal immigration agents from entering state buildings without a judicial warrant, and restricting their arrests even with a warrant, but the bill hasn’t moved in the relatively more moderate Assembly at all since then.
It’s actually New York that’s gone the furthest out in front on the issue: on April 25, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed an executive order claiming to bar ICE from making arrests at state buildings. But the state’s courts quickly made clear that the order doesn’t apply to ICE and engaged in a surprisingly encouraging amount of public pushback based on the principle that the buildings are open to everyone: as Office of Court Administration spokesman Lucian Chalfen explained, “[a]s long as outside law enforcement checks in and has the appropriate paperwork, we maintain that they have the legal authority to observe or make an arrest.”
In response, a bill was introduced in the Assembly on May 30—Assembly Bill (AB) 11013, the “Protect Our Courts Act,”—that specifically covers courthouses, and appears to actually even make civil arrests without a judicial warrant (such as by ICE) in courthouses a crime.. If passed by the Assembly, the bill’s chances in the narrowly Republican-controlled Senate are unclear, but given his past actions and statements, if it ever reached Cuomo’s desk he’d be nearly certain to sign it.
But Illinois isn’t far behind New York. Its bill—Senate Bill (SB) 35, the “Immigration Safe Zones Act”—might not be quite as extreme as New York’s, since it doesn’t create criminal penalties, but it does go beyond what Cuomo’s executive order does since it covers the courts. Also unlike the New York bill, it’s already passed both chambers of the state legislature. You have to wonder if Republican Governor Bruce Rauner might rouse himself to veto it, since he signed the state’s current sanctuary law, the so-called “Illinois Trust Act” (SB 31) (2017), last year. It’s unlikely there would be the votes in the legislature to override a veto: Democrats control the House of Representatives only 67-51, and the Senate 37-22, neither of which is close to the required 2/3 supermajority, unless significant numbers of Republicans joined them.
Finally, one of the most extreme positions on this of all might have reared its head in, of all places, Rhode Island: for two years in a row now, the “Rhode Island Values Act” has sought to bar ICE and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) from schools, hospitals, places of worship and courthouses without a judicial warrant, even when those buildings are otherwise open to the public and even when they’re the property not of state or local government but of private parties. The bill didn’t even get a floor vote this session, but given the increased national impetus for such policies, it’ll probably be back next year.
The biggest thing in common with all this legislation? Actually complying with it, trying to physically enforce it on the ground in specific cases, is very likely a federal crime. It recklessly escalates things toward a direct confrontation with the federal government.
The politicians backing these dangerous policies are taking their constituents along for a drive straight off a cliff. Hopefully it can all be stopped and turned around before it really is too late.