Sunday, December 11, 2016

Are sanctuary cities legal?

Last week, President-elect Donald Trump re-emphasized the approach he will take in enforcing the nation’s immigration laws, which is much different from the manner of enforcement utilized by President Obama. The latter pointedly declined to deport the 5 million undocumented immigrants in the United States who are the parents of children born here — children who, by virtue of birth, are American citizens. Mr. Trump has made known his intention to deport all undocumented people, irrespective of family relationships, starting with those who have committed crimes.
In response to Mr. Trump’s stated intentions, many cities — including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco — have offered sanctuary to those whose presence has been jeopardized by the president-elect’s plan. Can they do this?
Here is the back story.
Under the Constitution, the president is the chief federal law enforcement officer in the land. Though the president’s job is to enforce all federal laws, as a practical matter, the federal government lacks the resources to do that. As well, the president is vested with what is known as prosecutorial discretion. That enables him to place priority on the enforcement of certain federal laws and put the enforcement of others on the back burner.

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