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Letter: Worthington is not a “sanctuary city” because there is no such thing

Mayor Kuhle correctly stated our city is not a sanctuary city. He also correctly notes there is no accepted definition of this term. If the term "sanctuary city" lacks a legal definition, the label lacks legal consequences. It is therefore a lega...

Mayor Kuhle correctly stated our city is not a sanctuary city. He also correctly notes there is no accepted definition of this term. If the term “sanctuary city” lacks a legal definition, the label lacks legal consequences. It is therefore a legal fiction.  Notwithstanding, this is a legal fiction that has real consequences for members of our community.  

The immigration code is as nuanced and complicated as the tax code. Though fundamentally flawed, the complexity of immigration law, like tax law, reflects the complexity of millions of individual lives and their stories. To define all non-citizens of our community in terms of “legal” and “illegal” is a false dichotomy and to expect all public servants and law enforcement to have immigration expertise is unrealistic.  

The executive order signed by President Trump refers to 8 U.S.C. 1373, which prohibits local policies limiting communication of an individual’s legal status with the Immigration and Naturalization Service. This is distinguishable from local policies in which law enforcement is prohibited from asking improper and racially motivated questions. Worthington has neither such policies, but we are a blessed to live in a community in which our law enforcement officials have stated they will not interrogate the victims of crimes regarding the nuance of their legal status. Why? Because they are not qualified to do so, it is unconstitutional, and perhaps most importantly, it is completely irrelevant. This policy does not make our city a “sanctuary city” as ambiguously discussed in the executive order, but if it did, then it is a term we should embrace. When victims of crime are fearful of interactions with law enforcement, they do not report crime and our community is less safe.

The mayor also correctly notes that our community aspires to follow the law with respect to racial profiling. Unlike the term “sanctuary city” the term “racial profiling,” like most terms of art in the law, has a legal definition. “Racial profiling” is defined as “any action initiated by law enforcement that relies on race, ethnicity, or national origin of an individual.” I would implore those in our community concerned about these issues to consider how our jail becomes informed on whether detained individuals are “legal” or “illegal.” Moreover, consider the impact of the lack of a transparent and cohesive policy with respect to so called “ICE detainers.” As taxpayers we should ask ourselves whether deporting “illegals” is worth what we will pay in the defense and damages of ongoing civil rights lawsuits for the unlawful detention of members of our community. Unlike the abstract consequences of the “sanctuary city” label, the bill for that policy is coming soon. I, for one, am not looking forward to paying it.

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