Sanctuary Cities and Sanctuary Nations:
We Need Sanctuaries Even With Mass DeportationsSanctuary Cities and Sanctuary Nations: We Need Sanctuaries Even With Mass Deportations


Sanctuary cities are not enough. Sanctuary nations are required for the sake of safety, democracy, and economic growth. Without sanctuary status, the likelihood is crime and the malignancy of criminal organizations. That would leave more of us dead and fearing for our lives, push the economy underground and investors out, cripple the government’s vital services, and replace democracy with oligarchy. If still unchecked, states would fail. Nations would effectively be divided into tiny pieces, unified in name only.

The Problem Is Worse Than Most People Think It Is

Most of what follows are generalizations. Exceptions exist but these are typical facts.

People who are not criminals often specialize in something they do well. People who are criminals also specialize. The criminal who repeatedly makes their living in crime targets people who have something the criminal wants enouogh to overcome resistance and, among those potential targets, the more vulnerable of them. Potential victims who are unlawfully in a nation presumably cannot report having been victimized by a crime without their own unlawful presence becoming evident to a national law enforcement authority, risking confinement and deportation, so they are by definition more vulnerable than people who are lawfully present, all else equal. So, some criminals specialize in preying on illegal immigrants.

Much of this crime centers on the taking of property and, to that end, is violent or credibly threatens violence. If not checked, this crime will likely rise, and, given history, will spread into surrounding communities, not just those sharing the immigration status or composed of the same ethnicity but also beyond.

The crime will often be by individuals, but some will discover the benefits of working together. One robs and the other drives a getaway car. They wear similar clothing and share ethnicity, easing internal communication (e.g., impenetrable slang) and making identification for arrest harder. They hide each others’ loot so that an arrest is with less evidence. They frighten bystanders into not reporting details to police. For mutual protection, they form gangs. The gangs become fearsome. They also provide services, benefits, but remain primarily criminal organizations. They find, on net balance, that crime pays. They commit more crimes. That pays even more.

The increase in crime will raise legitimate businesses’ security costs, raising total costs of business, leading to moves out of an impacted community and to closures. That makes economic life, such as employment and shopping, more difficult for the people who still live in a harmed community. Housing in those locations comes to be less in demand than elsewhere for people who can afford to move, so homes, including houses, apartments, and rooms, become empty and do not produce revenue even while generating expenses, so, to fill the homes, local rents come down, or at least not rise as much as in less-affected communities, but probably not by enough to be a net benefit to the tenants; and that lowers income for landlords, who, by owning real estate, are business owners and taxpayers who will now pay less in taxes.

The gangs’ economic activity is largely not taxed (some is, for the sake of blending or convenience, but some is unlawfully untaxed). The total taxes paid by an impacted community, including by its residents and its business members, go down. That makes the community politically less important than other communities that pay more. Politicians show less attention to the more needy but less remunerative communities that also contribute less to political candidates’ election campaigns. The government has less revenue with which to deliver needed services. Resources erode or get pulled away. Public schools get worse and high school dropout rates rise. Employment falls. Buildings (especially homes) and public structures (such as street lights) get broken more and repaired less. Poverty deepens and spreads. Public health deteriorates. People are more likely to get shot or stabbed.

Government receding, either pushed back or because of budget cuts, creates more opportunities for the gangs. The gangs engorge themselves on new opportunities. They prosper and grow.

Noncriminals become scarcer. Some become people who commit crimes on a lesser scale than do the career criminals, but the criminality becomes contagious and infectious of society. Opponents of crime often become people who damage criminals, such as through law enforcement or vigilante practice, and thus become increasingly vulnerable targets of criminals protecting themselves and their economic prospects. People promoting community safety die, leave, or are otherwise neutralized. “No-go” zones, which police often cannot safely enter, are created, enforced, and grown. The trends favor criminality.

Criminal gangs generally do not benefit from democracy. The gangs start out practicing a minority view that would always be voted down (such as by the election of candidates who are likely to move economic resources into law enforcement against the gangs). Like most small institutions and even most large private-sector institutions, gangs are not democratic with respect to the larger communities in which they act. Instead, they apply techniques they know from other practice, such as bribery and blackmail, to politicians when they begin to matter.

The growth is not worldwide even when it is beyond immigrant communities and ethnic-minority communities. Eventually, a limit is reached, because only some of the gangs’ income is sustainable without nongang productivity. Someone generally cannot steal food if someone else does not first produce it; and illegal production, due to security costs, is expensive. Thus, gangs may hit a growth limit before participating in a democracy solely through democratic process can be helpful to the gangs. But that is not safe enough for the larger community and its polity and its economy.

This is not acceptable and, except for some career criminals, most people want an end to this state of affairs. While every nation has the right in international law (except where treaties create exceptions) to deport anyone who is not a national of that nation, unless absent they need to be protected from crime; and other people, for their own safety, collaterally need illegal immigrants to receive protection.

What We Don’t Want

Say a contract killer, who makes a good living and gets a bonus now and then for excellent performance, observes someone jaywalking where there’s no traffic. Let’s stipulate that jaywalking is awful, that the book should be thrown and the miscreant should be shamed with a ten-dollar ticket and gtold never to do that again. Nonetheless, we do not want to give the highly performing murderer a get-out-of-jail-free card because, finally, on one sunny day, the murderer was a model citizen all afternoon.

However, even in a case like that, both sets of crimes can be reported and both can lead to the fullest punishment permmitted by law. A news story that likely originated with a police department said that a call to 911 reported a personal robbery in progress, but something in that call became a clue to the 911 operator that something else was going on. The police arrived on the scene, found the complainant, and caught the robber. But, also, the police arrested the complainant for dealing drugs.

Some might ask why the police should stop a robbery of a drug dealer, since maybe that would discourage anyone from becoming an unprotected drug dealer. The answer is that if the police don't intervene then robbers will specialize in robbing criminals because they will get away with robbery and make good money in their niche. They’d have to avoid getting shot by drug dealers and their allies, but at least drug dealers don’t have large citywide security forces armed with databases of clues to identity.

Some Solutions to Start With

  • One way to deal with this is to take as one starting point the typical individual who has survived a crime. The survivor who was victimized has a few choices:
  • — The survivor can act as if nothing happened. There’ll be no deterrence of attackers. Without deterrence, more attacks will likely follow. Violence in a percentage of instances results in injury or death of victims. Statistically, acting as if nothing happened may be the least effectual response.

  • — The survivor can go to a nation that will welcome them, besides any of their own nationality. It’s unlikely that the host government will facilitate travel to any nation but that of the survivor’s nationality, so, to go to a third nation, the survivor will likely have to self-deport before being confronted by a law enforcement agency over immigration status. A last-ditch possibility is that they will lie or hint in a way that is misunderstood by domestic authorities, leading to deportation to a nation other than their own, but at a risk that the receiving nation will incarcerate them for entry on a false premise. The uncertainties and difficulties in trying to go to a third nation are enough to stop most people from trying.

  • — The survivor can go to a nation of their nationality. If the present host nation is the best choice of residence, perhaps because elsewhere there would likely be persecution, violence, or economic failure, voluntary departure is unlikely. It’s also unlikely considering that migrants generally are willing to take more of the migration-based risks than is a non-migrant and is less likely to be deterred by a level of crime that is not greater than where they came from, all else equal, and other factors likely make the two places not equal. Thus, they’ll likely stay.

  • — The survivor can add personal protection. Alarms often work at home but not outside. The ability to deliver greater violence to a threatener often works but risks bringing law enforcement against the survivor.

  • — The survivor can ask neighbors to keep an eye out for their safety, and offer to reciprocate. That may deter an attack, and a potential attacker staying away usually means that law enforcement does not get involved. But the neighbors, while well-intentioned and skillful, have families, homes, and property of their own and limited time and probably can’t do much for this survivor. So the attacks are less deterred and danger is soon present.

  • — The survivor can contract with a professional security provider for assistance within the law, such as a human guard, perhaps uniformed. But that’s expensive; and if the client is in the nation unlawfully, the security provider may be unable or unwilling to enter into the contract.

Here’s the Worst Solution

This leaves a dangerous alternative. The survivor might arrange with a security provider for assistance outside the law. Commonly, as they’re acting outside the law, that provider is a gang. That can be effectual. Sometimes, simply being known to be under the protection of a gang is enough to deter attacks. That’s especially the case if the potential attackers are part of the same gang and have been instructed to lay off this family.

But the price is steep. It’s not just money and it may not be money at all. The gang, often already engaged in a volume of crime, will want something for their service. Their service is provided through violence and the threat of violence, often both unlawfully. They do not want the requester to ask for the gang’s highly criminal service and then report this to the police, even if it’s because the police demanded to know. The gang could wind up in jail for a long time, and that would disrupt their business. So the gang wants assurance from the requester that they won’t tell the police. The best way to get that assurance is by making the requester deeply afraid of the police. The best way to do that is to ask the requester to participate in a crime that is obviously serious enough that the requester could likely be jailed for a long time. Since the gang already is willing and able to deliver violence to the requester’s enemies, the gang presumably already is willing and able to deliver violence to the requester. So the offer that can’t be refused is uttered: You wouldn’t mind storing this suitcase of cocaine in your closet, would you? Now the immigrant has to respond and can’t say no. Having said yes, the immigrant can’t have any adverse contact with the police. The immigrant will be taught local methods for minimizing police contact. Even friendly chit-chat on the street with a police officer will be forbidden, because some gang member might see this and tell the gang what they saw, which then will be interpreted as snitching or reporting the gang’s activity to the police. One warning might ensue; and the immigrant might be murdered by the gang to prevent the police from building a case against the gang.

Immigrants will increasingly participate in major crimes, adding to the effective size of the gang. The gang’s core membership may stay the same, but their functional support base will grow. While many of these gangs are ethnically defined, many cooperate with gangs of other ethnicities and the crimes they commit often stretch beyond their ethnic strongholds into larger communities, taking advantage of opportunities. More of their core members and extended-base supporters acquire more serious criminal histories even if not caught and become virtually irredeemable for above-ground participation. Immigrants with shorter criminal histories developed in response to fear may not be able to recover into lawfulness and may be incarcerated and deported as criminals. The immigrants’ positive contributions to their communities become less significant. The communities in which they live will be harmed even more by the gangs’ and immigrants’ criminal behaviors.

As a community becomes more dangerous, some employers of the above-ground variety, those who don’t have to stay local, gradually pull out. Others cut jobs. The immigrant or a family member may soon need a job. The gang might have one. Help with a kidnapping for ransom and get paid. Provide a place in the immigrant’s home for the practice of prostitution where it’s against the law but where men want the service. Transport heroin. There’s plenty of well-paying work, much for what is effectively tax-free cash, for a trustworthy immigrant.

If the police and above-ground political leadership want to act strongly to defeat the gangs, they must figure out whom to arrest, but identifying suspects is often not clearcut. Commonly, especially when gang members tend to blend into a community, the wrong people get interrogated, a smaller number of wrong people are brought to police stations, and many of them get arrested. Even when criminals are almost the only ones being convicted and sentenced, the mistakes are the subject of blame, resentment, and distrust, partly because it’s safer to be against the police than to be against the gang that murders people. Opposition to the noncriminal political and criminal justice systems, however, creates a political opportunity for the gangs. In some communities, the gangs are, by their decision, partly accountable to their communities, but more so than the police are, since they’re local while the police might be distantly headquartered, under political leadership that does not much respond to the local community, and using controverted or bad tactics. The solution to that is for political leaders who select police chiefs to be more accountable to all of the communities in question, including low-income communities where gangs thrive. Illegal immigrants can do little in that direction, but neighbors and friends who are U.S. citizens and allies can do some politicking to that end.

This Brings Us Around to Sanctuary

To nip these dangers in the bud, sanctuary is needed locally.

Sanctuary cities can compete with non-sanctuary cities. Mayors can use sanctuary city practice to attract illegal immigrants from non-sanctuary localities and thereby build their above-ground economies. To reduce controversy, the mayors can compete and promote through immigrants’ word of mouth.

But leaving out other communities as not sanctuaries is short-sighted. Many criminal gangs, like many major above-ground businesses, prefer small suburbs. The local governments are smaller and thus are easier to bend to their wills. Above-ground businesses can seek more favorable tax treatment. But also, because suburbs are small and the number of people a suburb hires is small, gangs can learn to recognize every member of their local police departments, even out of uniform, even including support personnel such as secretaries and janitors, even out of town at bars, malls, and beaches. That familiarity creates opportunities for broadly-defined bribery and blackmail from which large-city police departments can better insulate themselves through anonymity and rotation of members.

Thus, suburbs and thence entire states, i.e., the whole nation, need to offer sanctuary.

And there’s good reason for all nations to offer sanctuary. Many developing nations are still developing because their criminal organizations are, proportionately to population, even more powerful than are their developed-nation counterparts and slow down their respective nations’ development. Many developed nations are hampered by their criminal organizations and need to rein them in more, although they may lack the resources so to do. Every nation of any economic kind needs to lower or keep down its organized-crime rates and, to that end, needs its illegal immigrants to report crime, threats, and intelligence.

Thus, worldwide sanctuary status is generally the preferred law enforcement tactic.