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Tucson’s rebuke to the ‘sanctuary’ movement speaks volumes


Tucson’s resounding rejection of an activist-led push for “sanctuary” policies is a welcome sign that sanity can still prevail even in an age of growing extremism.

Proposition 205, the latest and most brazen attempt to frustrate the enforcement of federal immigration law, went down in flames November 5. This was a complete reversal after years of increasing momentum for the open borders lobby, which has successfully pressured cities, counties, and even entire states to adopt “sanctuary” policies that prohibit law enforcement from cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Jan Brewer (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Jan Brewer (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The measure that Tucsonans rejected by a 2-1 margin was similar to the sanctuary policies implemented elsewhere, but it went further in both style and substance. Officially titled “Tucson Families Free and Together,” Proposition 205 branded the concept of Tucson police and city officials working with federal agents as “collaboration,” as though the federal government were an occupying army. Even working with the feds on normal criminal investigations would require a memorandum explicitly stating that immigration laws would not be enforced at any point. It would even have allowed just about anyone to sue the city of Tucson if any official tried to enforce immigration law.

All sanctuary laws are explicitly designed to defy federal law, but Proposition 205 also ran counter to Arizona’s own laws, urging police to disregard their authority and responsibility under state law to determine the immigration status of individuals they detain in the course of their normal duties.

When I was governor, state lawmakers and I saw this type of ploy coming. I signed legislation specifically to stop the spread of sanctuary cities, stating, “No official or agency of this state or a county, city, town, or other political subdivision of this state may adopt a policy that limits or restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law.”

Tucsonans rejected Proposition 205 decisively. That vote was more than symbolic – it indicates several concrete facts about the state of play in the immigration debate.

First, that sort of result doesn’t come from mere partisan turnout. Tucson is a solidly Democratic city. The mayor is a Democrat. Every member of the City Council is a Democrat. All three of Tucson’s U.S. representatives are Democrats. And yet, on the same day that 55% of Tucson voters elected yet another Democratic mayor, 71% of them voted against Proposition 205.

Fundamentally, support for sanctuary policies does not come from voters; it comes from far-left open-borders activists. Polls consistently show that Americans – even Democrats – overwhelmingly oppose sanctuary policies and believe local law enforcement should allow the federal government to deport criminals and arrestees if they are in the country illegally.

Second, the vote in Tucson shows that strong leadership at higher levels of government can help prevent activists from sneaking their extremist policies through at the local level. Part of the reason that Tucson’s Democratic mayor came out strongly against Prop. 205 is that he knew his city stood to lose more than $100 million of state money – and millions of dollars more in federal grants under the Trump Justice Department’s new directives – if the measure passed.

Pressure works, especially when money is involved. There is no reason liberal cities should be allowed to burden their states and the country as a whole with the costs of their refusal to uphold the law. Democratic politicians have to know that if they “collaborate” with the open borders activists, there will be a steep price to pay.

That’s why I fought for anti-sanctuary policies in Arizona, and it’s also why President Trump instructed his Justice Department to withhold grant money from sanctuary cities – those policies work.

Tucson voters dealt the sanctuary movement a crippling blow, proving that the will of the people can still prevail over the machinations of radical activists.

Jan Brewer is a former governor of Arizona.

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