The Klanmaster General is perpetuating myths about sanctuary cities. Also, Democrats, abortion, and Occam’s Big Paisley Tie. (More)
“They make our nation less safe”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a surprise appearance at today’s White House press briefing, slamming cities that are working to ignore the federal law to turn over people who are living in the country illegally.
Sessions said he “strongly urges” these cities, known as sanctuary cities, to “consider carefully” the damage they are doing to national security and public safety by refusing to enforce immigration laws.
“Unfortunately some states and cities have adopted policies designed to frustrate the enforcement of immigration laws,” including refusing to detain nonfelons on federal detainer requests, Sessions said.
Sessions noted a Department of Homeland Security report out last week showing more than 200 criminal suspects released in one week despite Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers.
“Such policies cannot continue. They make our nation less safe by putting dangerous criminals back on the streets,” he added.
“We intend to use all the lawful authorities we have to make sure our state and local officials … are in sync with the federal government,” Sessions said.
“Moreover, the Department of Justice will require that jurisdictions seeking or applying for Department of Justice grants to certify compliance with [relevant laws] as a condition of receiving those awards,” he added.
In a nutshell, almost none of that is true … except for the threat in the closing sentence.
“Pretty clearly unconstitutional”
A bit of background. A federal statute requires local law enforcement agencies to share the citizenship or immigration status of all arrestees with the federal government. But as a practical matter, most local law enforcement agencies don’t have that information. Instead, they fingerprint all arrestees and send those to their states’ databases, who send them to the FBI. If the FBI database highlights an arrestee as an undocumented immigrant, the FBI forwards that information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE can then ask the city or county jail to detain that person for immigration processing.
For example, say Edvald Ersatzer gets drunk in a San Francisco bar and stands on the sidewalk outside his girlfriend’s house, bellowing “I Just Met a Girl Named Maria” from West Side Story at 1am. Maria’s neighbors call the SFPD, who arrest Ersatzer for disorderly conduct.
The SFPD fingerprint Ersatzer and send his prints to the California state agency, who send them to the FBI, whose database shows that Ersatzer is a German citizen who entered the U.S. on a two-year student visa in 2009. That visa expired in 2011, so Ersatzer is now an undocumented immigrant and the FBI notify ICE, who ask the SFPD to detain Ersatzer. But he has already bail, or pleaded guilty and paid the small fine for the disorderly conduct charge, so the SFPD have no legal reason to hold him …
… apart from the ICE request. That ICE request is not an arrest warrant. No ICE agent or U.S. attorney has yet gone to a federal judge with an affidavit laying out probable cause for Ersatzer’s arrest. ICE are asking the SFPD to hold Ersatzer anyway, without a warrant. Because San Francisco is a ‘sanctuary city’ – and because the SFPD think the Fourth Amendment actually matters – they refuse the ICE request and release Ersatzer.
Federal courts have consistently held that compliance with ICE requests is voluntary, because the city or county would be legally responsible for any Fourth Amendment violation. And ICE agents only pick up about one-third of the people they asked local officials to detain.
In other words, ICE change their minds in two-thirds of these detention requests. That is, they don’t get a federal arrest warrant and don’t try to deport the person …
“The term ‘sanctuary city’ is a loaded term that means different things to different people,” Das said. Over the past 15 years, the federal government began relying on information from local law enforcement to prosecute those in violation of immigration laws. And while no jurisdiction in the US can prevent a person from being deported, Das explained, the places often described as sanctuary cities do not allow local law enforcement to assist with enforcing immigration laws.
Das argued that the executive order is “pretty clearly unconstitutional,” and pointed toward National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, the 2012 US Supreme Court decision that upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The ruling demonstrated why, under the Tenth Amendment and the Constitution’s Spending Clause, the federal government cannot commandeer local resources to carry out its own regulatory scheme.
I bet Republicans didn’t think their Obamacare challenge would come back to bite them that way.
“Depending on how they were applied”
Sessions’s announcement implied these were the cities his Department of Justice would now start targeting. “Some states and cities have adopted policies designed to frustrate the enforcement of our immigration laws. This includes refusing to detain known felons,” Sessions said. “These policies cannot continue. They make our nation less safe by putting dangerous criminals back on our streets.”
His speech was misleading – not just because of the undertones painting all unauthorized immigrants as dangerous criminals, but because the definition of “sanctuary city” that he’s actually using is very different.
Under federal law, state and local governments can’t prohibit their employees from sharing information with the federal government (if they so choose) about someone’s immigration status. (They’re allowed to have broad confidentiality policies in place that protect immigration information along with other kinds of personal info.)
In 2016, Republican members of Congress asked the Obama administration’s Justice Department to look into whether cities that got federal grants were violating this law. The memo written by the DOJ’s inspector general in response – which Sessions referred to on Monday – concluded the answer could be yes: that many of America’s biggest cities had policies that, depending on how they were applied, could “restrict cooperation with ICE in all respects.” [Emphasis added]
Note those italics. The Klanmaster General has no evidence that any city or county has withheld fingerprints of arrestees. Instead, all he has is a DOJ IG report that said some city or county employees might misinterpret their local ordinances and thus withhold that information from the feds. So now the DOJ will deny funding to targeted cities and counties, unless those cities and counties can prove they’re not withholding the information.
And until a federal court holds otherwise, those cities and counties can still refuse those detention requests from ICE, because they would still be legally responsible for any Fourth Amendment violations.
Oh, and here’s the kicker: “sanctuary cities” are safer than non-sanctuary cities. That’s partly because undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens. It’s also because cops do a better job, and have better community relations, when they’re not trying to do ICE’s work too.
So yeah, the only true thing in the Klanmaster General’s speech … was his threat.
Occam’s Big Paisley Tie
When I came to this country from Ireland some 45 years ago, a cousin, here 15 years before, advised me that Catholics vote Democratic. Having grown up in the Irish Republic, I was well disposed to Republican Party principles like local autonomy and limited government. Yet a commitment to social justice, so central to my faith, seemed better represented by the Democratic Party. I followed my cousin’s good counsel.
But once-solid Catholic support for Democrats has steadily eroded. This was due at least in part to the shift by many American Catholic bishops from emphasizing social issues (peace, the economy) to engaging in the culture wars (abortion, gay marriage). Along the way, many Catholics came to view the Democrats as unconditionally supporting abortion.
Last year’s election was a watershed in this evolution. Hillary Clinton lost the overall Catholic vote by seven points – after President Obama had won it in the previous two elections. She lost the white Catholic vote by 23 points. In heavily Catholic states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, she lost by a hair – the last by less than 1 percent. A handful more of Catholic votes per parish in those states would have won her the election.
Never mind that Hillary Clinton won the nationwide popular vote. Never mind that Barack Obama won with popular majorities – twice – and had exactly the same position on abortion. Shakesville’s Melissa McEwen explains:
I know this is a radical suggestion, but maybe the problem isn’t that Hillary Clinton is pro-choice, but maybe the problem is that Hillary Clinton is a woman.
Misogyny is still the word that shall not be spoken in post-mortems of the 2016 election. And I don’t find convincing an argument that any voting demographic would swing wildly between Obama and Clinton as a result of an issue on which they held virtually identical views. Both of whom, not incidentally, had Catholic running mates who could competently articulate how they reconciled being politically pro-choice despite their church’s anti-choice views.
I do, however, believe strongly that a voting demographic defined by an institution that holds at the center of its principles a belief that women must be disallowed from holding positions of power might be disproportionately likely to reject the idea of a female leader on the basis that she is a woman.
And then McEwen uses a wonderful metaphor that I hadn’t seen before:
The argument about reproductive choice is just the latest attempt to Occam’s Big Paisley Tie the most obvious reason why people who voted for Obama wouldn’t vote for Clinton. And the refusal to even consider that possibility all but guarantees it will happen again.
What is Occam’s Big Paisley Tie? She explained that back in 2013:
This is something men do to women, white people do to people of color, straight people do to queer people, cis people do to trans/intersex/genderqueer people, able-bodied people do to people with disabilities, thin people do to fat people, religious people do to atheists, etc.
Around every axis of privilege/marginalization, there are marginalized people saying, “I just experienced this heinous bit of hatred because of my marginalized identity,” and privileged people saying, “Hang on, now. How can you be sure that it was because of your marginalized identity, and not just a misunderstanding, or a mistake, or a misspeak, or this thing or that thing or this other thing over here, because there’s surely a perfectly logical explanation for why this behavior that looks exactly like a million other bits of behavior that you and other people in this marginalized population have experienced is actually something TOTALLY DIFFERENT. Have you considered that maybe it’s just that you’re too sensitive?”
If Occam’s Razor is the principle by which the simplest explanation is usually the correct one, this urge to exhaust every possible explanation – no matter how convoluted, remote, unlikely, or totally fucking absurd – is Occam’s Big Paisley Tie.
Are you sure that salesperson didn’t ignore you because [he/she] just didn’t see you? SWIRL! Well, maybe [he/she] was just having a bad day. SWOOP! Are you certain [he/she] heard you? SWIRL! Did you really try to get [his/her] attention? SWOOP! Maybe [he/she] didn’t realize you needed help. SWIRL! I’m sure it’s not that [he/she] was being purposefully rude. SWOOP! Maybe [he/she] is hard of hearing. SWIRL! Have you considered that maybe you had an unfriendly look on your face? SWOOP! You know how your face gets when you’re not smiling. SWIRL! I don’t know – there has to be some explanation you just didn’t notice. SWOOOOOOOOP!
And if that weren’t enough, McEwen rolls out this beauty:
The swirls and swoops on the tie conspire to create a pattern of distraction. But maybe this tie is really a razor! And when all else fails, comes Occam’s Big Paisley’s Tie Windsor Knot of Bullshit: “Have you considered that maybe you’re just looking for things to get mad about?”
If need nutshells to hold the torrents of pompous privilege that begin with “Are you sure?” … I offer Occam’s Big Paisley Tie and its Windsor Knot of Bullshit, with all credit to McEwen.
Photo Credit: Kevin Lamarque (Reuters)
Good day and good nuts