A delegation of big-city police chiefs has announced its opposition to the Arizona immigration law. They claim that SB 1070 will increase crime by intimidating illegal-alien victims and witnesses from cooperating with the police. This standard argument in favor of local sanctuary policies has never been tested empirically by comparing witness involvement in sanctuary and non-sanctuary cities. As Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, head of the Arizona Sheriff’s Association and a supporter of SB 1070, points out, cooperation from illegal aliens is already low.
But the real weakness in the position of the big-city chiefs (who are exquisitely political animals) is the tired nostrum that we need a federal, not a local, solution to illegal immigration. Unless the federal government suddenly starts showing an unprecedented commitment to the issue, you cannot have a federal solution to illegal immigration without also involving local law enforcement. There are simply not enough resources at the federal level to create a meaningful deterrent for intending illegals who have not yet entered the country or a reason for illegal aliens already in the U.S. to return to their home countries.
Only by defining the “solution” to illegal immigration as official federal amnesty is the statement that only the federal government can provide a solution true. Of course, local governments have been creating unofficial amnesties through their sanctuary laws for years. Those don’t seem to have worked out so well.