Storm Lake, possibly Iowa’s most diverse community, isn’t a Sanctuary City. The school district has no Sanctuary Schools, and the university isn’t a Sanctuary Campus. To my knowledge, it has never even been discussed by any of those entities.
You would think that if anywhere in Iowa was to be a sanctuary, it would be this place where so many people from Mexico, Southeast Asia, Africa, South America, Cuba, etc. live, work and study.
Not so fast.
As near as I can see, being a Sanctuary City achieves very little, and could cost a lot. At the very least, it is a political distraction from the real issues - how to house, feed, educate, employ people. That’s the stuff that matters.
Sanctuary Cities have become a massive battle that is pitting one level of government against others. This week, Chicago city goverment is suing the federal government over threats to withhold public safety grants from Sanctuaries that harbor undocumented immigrants. More will likely follow. We’re suing ourselves, in a sense!
Guess who wins in that war? Lawyers. Certainly not taxpayers, or immigrants.
Several counties in Iowa, including Ida, have taken some sanctuary-type steps. Iowa City, and Des Moines schools, are sort-of sanctuaries, limiting involvement with federal immigration authorities in defiance of the government.
Perhaps there is some value to such action, albeit largely symbolic. A little official rebellion against threats of deportation for otherwise law-abiding undocumented people.
In practice, it’s pretty meaningless. If federal law enforcement wants someone or something, it’s going to get it. Local officials can cooperate or not, but that isn’t going to change the outcome.
At issue here is the fact that nobody really knows what a Sanctuary City is or what it’s supposed to do. There is no real definition, the term is an invented one.
Is a Sanctuary City, or county, school or campus, just something that exists on paper, to express moral opposition to the fear of heavy-handed immigration enforcement? Or does it mean that an area will really refuse to follow the laws of the country, or try to refuse entry to ICE or other federal enforcement officials? Does it mean that people would literally be hidden or stockaded, a farfetched modern-day Underground Railroad? Or does it mean that if necessary, force would be used? I’m not sure that would be in keeping with the concept of the term “sanctuary” as we have known it. The very word conjures a welcoming and peaceful image, not conflict or an angry political standoff.
Our Congressman Steve King is among those who have latched on to the sanctuary issue, insisting on punishing Sanctuary communities to the utmost, taking away federal funding to force compliance.
Hold on there, folks.
If Sanctuary policies are adopted locally, it is done by city councils, county supervisors, college regents or trusrtees, school boards.
Taking away grants that help provide for housing or food or education don’t hurt those officials, it hurts the most vulnerable people of the community, who had nothing at all to do with the making of those decisions.
This concept is so ridiculous that it’s hard to believe our administration and congress has stooped to this level - force local officials to accept vague and potentially dangerous federal policy, or the feds will basically strip the residents of their communities of service and quality of life until the local officials give up.
It’s stunning that America has come to this kind of mean-spirited blackmail.
And once again, all the noise and fury over Sanctuary Cities punishment gives so-called leadership yet another smokescreen to distract the public from that fact that still, they have achieved nothing to reform the long-broken U.S. immigration policies that contribute to the illegality issues to begin with.
Storm Lake could call itself a Sanctuary. It would make some headlines breifly, cause a few vague threats from the feds, and achieve nothing, really.
What matters is what you do, not what you say.
And we’re pretty proud of what our community does, and has been doing long before it became trendy.
It welcomed people from all over the world. If they work and study hard, treat others well, and lead law-abiding lives, they have a place here. We have no reason to hunt them or expel them, nor would we solve anything if we did.
In fact, we have pioneered programs to teach English and assist in legal and citizenship processes, help kids prepare for college and share health information in a multicultural setting, even to encourage newcomers to become leaders. That is something we can be proud of. Those who noisily rally their nativist troops with promises of razor-wire walls and unrealistic mass deportation of millions of people could learn from it.
Storm Lake police enforce public safety, they don’t manhunt the undocumented. It isn’t their job. Storm Lake schools and campuses teach, they don’t investigate students’ immigrant status. It isn’t the job. The health care community heals, it doesn’t police or deny care based on ethnicity. It isn’t their job.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t respect and cooperate with federal officials including ICE. Of course we want to remove people who can’t follow the law or hurt other people, we all have that in common, or should. Deport them, period, in full cooperation with federal officials.
We simply choose not to make problems where they don’t exist. We work first to serve and accommodate people, not to view them with neurosis and suspicion. We’ve found a lot of good people this way.
We don’t need a label to do this, and frankly, we don’t need the political hysteria that comes with it. We have no reason to pit ourselves against the president, or our congressman.
It’s better to do what’s right, than it is to make some empty declaration.
We may never be a “Sanctuary City,” and that’s fine by us. We’d rather be sanctuary people, who look for the promise in everyone of every race, religion and background, and welcome those who want to be good citizens of our community.