March 29, 2017
As a kid playing hide and seek, the concept of “sanctuary” was easy to understand; make it back to a designated spot before being seen and you were safe. Your biggest fear was another neighborhood kid giving up your hiding spot.
Or in my case, our family dog getting out and tracking me down thanks to the Jolly Ranchers I kept in my pocket.
The concept of “sanctuary” has been around for thousands of years and can be traced as far back as the Old Testament, when the Book of Numbers commanded a selection of “six Cities of Refuge” where perpetrators of unintentional harm could claim asylum.
This continued in 392 A.D., when Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius set up sanctuaries under church control — a proclamation that lasted until 1621 A.D., when the general right of sanctuary for churches in England was abolished.
Now, more than 300 years later, it’s a term that has resurfaced within our national dialogue as communities across the nation debate its meaning within the constructs of local, state and federal government as it relates to protecting the rights of those living illegally within the U.S.
This includes our own Florence City Council, where the proposal of a city ordinance defining its stance on the protection of individuals, similar to an ordinance recently passed by the Eugene City Council, polarized Florence counselors during a March 22 work session.
Since then, it’s become a topic that hints at a divide within our own community as we argue the merits of a term which, ironically, has no official definition within our federal government. It doesn’t help that even those in our nation’s capitol don’t seem to have a clear idea of what defines a sanctuary city, regardless of which side of the aisle they’re on.
During the 2008 GOP race for the presidential nomination, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney accused former New York City mayor Rudi Giuliani of running a sanctuary city, to which Giuliani accused Romney of running a sanctuary governor’s mansion.
Or put another way:
“I know you are, but what am I?”
Seven years later in self-proclaimed sanctuary city San Francisco, following the tragic shooting death of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle by illegal immigrant and repeat felon Juan Lopez-Sanchez, then Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton told CNN that she “had absolutely no support for a city that ignores deportation rules.”
Yet, the following day, Clinton told reporters that she believed “…sanctuary cities further public safety and has defended those policies for many years.”
The debate and posturing continues today with little reason to believe we’ll get any clear definition from our nation’s capitol anytime soon.
Which is maybe the way it’s supposed to be?
The one thing all levels of government agree on is that immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility. That means state and local law enforcement officials reserve the right to decide to what extent they are willing to cooperate with the federal government on immigration enforcement.
In 1987, the message from Oregon was pretty clear when it passed Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 181.850, which “prohibits law enforcement officers at the state, county or municipal level from enforcing federal immigration laws that target people based on race or ethnic origin, as long as those individuals are not suspected of any criminal activities.”
The argument from Washington, D.C., of course, is that being here illegally constitutes “criminal activity.”
The question we need to ask ourselves is whether we are willing to define anyone living in our community without proper documentation as being criminal.
Or, we can decide against being that neighborhood kid who gives away others’ “hiding” spot in what could become a real-life hide and seek that is anything but fun and games.
Ned Hickson is an syndicated columnist with News Media Coporation and is editor-in-chief at Siuslaw News in Florence, Ore.
Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org