The Corner

Politics & Policy

Predictably, Many Legal Immigrants Oppose Sanctuary Cities

Opposition to illegal immigration was once a bipartisan position. “We are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws,” President Bill Clinton declared back in 1995. “It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years and we must do more to stop it.”

But this was before Donald Trump became president.

Now, Democratic politicians at all levels of government prefer to resist Trump entirely, even if it means championing illegal immigration and advocating sanctuary jurisdictions — that is, those government entities within counties, cities, and states that refuse to enforce federal immigration laws and thus to shield illegal immigrants from deportation.

“We’re going to defend all of our people regardless of where they come from, regardless of their immigration status,” New York City’s mayor Bill de Blasio announced in January, just days after Trump won the presidency. Over in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared that “whether you’re from Poland or Pakistan, whether you’re from Ireland or India or Israel and whether you’re from Mexico or Moldova, where my grandfather came from, you are welcome in Chicago as you pursue the American dream.”

The majority of Americans disagree with the idea that cities should establish sanctuary policies, but the Democratic party has, according to the New York Times’s Sabrina Tavernise, “staked out an activist position built around protecting undocumented immigrants.” And as the sanctuary city debate intensifies it’s become clear that many legal immigrants — many of whom have voted Democrat for years – are not following the party in its new direction.

Tavernise described legal immigrants who opposed sanctuary cities across Md. as “unlikely sources” in her article on Monday, “Sanctuary Bills in Maryland Faced a Surprising Foe: Legal Immigrants.” But the fierce opposition shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. This is often the case.

J.D. Ma, a Md.-based attorney who grew up in China and migrated to the U.S. legally, explained to the Times that he fought to achieve his “Americanness,” because “being in America is such a high privilege.” “You cannot easily give that privilege to somebody without going through some kind of process,” he continued. “It’s like giving lots of gold for one dollar.”

Ma contemplated whether the Democratic party is right to advocate sanctuary cities in an effort to keep families together, but concluded that its reasoning is flawed. “If a single mother commits a crime and has to go to jail,” he explained, “we don’t say, ‘Oh, we can’t do that, because it will break her family.’”

Over in Howard County, Md., Biplab Pal also opposed the Democratic effort to create a sanctuary jurisdiction. He, along with his friends of Indian descent, reflected on the sacrifices that they made to come to the U.S. legally. “Some [friends] told of sacrifices like missing a parent’s funeral back in India,” the Times reported, “because traveling home could jeopardize the yearslong pursuit of a green card. With so many people waiting in line for years, the idea of providing sanctuary for those who had broken the law left a sour taste.”

The Times also interviewed Hongling Zhou, a Chinese-American living in Md., who didn’t simply complain about the sanctuary cities bills in her state; she and her friends wrote speeches describing their immigration stories, and voiced their concerns in front of lawmakers. “I read my draft, but then I totally changed it,” Zhou said. “I talked a lot about how many years it took to get citizenship, and I actually started crying.”

Austin Yack — Austin Yack is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute and a University of California, Santa Barbara alumnus.

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