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Sanctuary Cities and Immigration Policy

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Robert Brescia
February 17, 2017

Immigration policy and “sanctuary cities” are currently hot-rock topics of conversation in our country. The former is essential while the latter is a figment of some folks’ imaginations.

Sanctuary cities make me think of the old “free cities” of Europe during the Middle Ages. Towards the end of the Holy Roman Empire in the 15th century until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 there were 50 to 60 “free imperial cities.” Unlike those feudal system free-standing cities of old, American cities are NOT free imperial cities. They are subject to state and federal laws.

Here’s a list of so-called Sanctuary Cities in Texas:

  • Austin, TX
  • Brownsville, TX
  • Channelview, TX
  • Dallas Co, TX
  • Dallas, TX
  • Denton, TX
  • El Cenizo, TX
  • Ft Worth, TX
  • Houston, TX
  • Katy, TX
  • Laredo, TX
  • McAllen, TX
  • Port Arthur, TX
  • Travis Co., TX

Texas legislators are considering a bill during this current session that in effect provides more enforcement measures of legal immigration laws that are already on the books. It will allow several administrative, civil and criminal penalties for not enforcing the immigration laws throughout Texas.

There is no legal basis to support a sanctuary city or county. We are a nation of laws, not men. Therefore, the rule of law applies and must be enforced. Elected and appointed officials can’t pick and choose laws they wish to enforce or not. Cities are part of counties and states, and states make up the federal system—there is a transcendence or preeminence of law we must respect. I have yet to hear any proponent of sanctuary cities cite a single piece of legislation or constitutional clause that supports this aberration of our legal system.

Teddy Roosevelt – On Immigration

President Roosevelt often focused on the topic of immigration, penning these words several years before he became president of the United States:

We welcome the German or the Irishman who becomes an American. We have no use for the German or Irishman who remains such. We do not wish German-Americans and teddyIrish-Americans who figure as such in our social and political life; we want only Americans, and, provided they are such, we do not care whether they are of native or of Irish or of German ancestry. We have no room in any healthy American community for a German-American vote or an Irish-American vote, and it is contemptible demagogy to put planks into any party platform with the purpose of catching such a vote. Moreover, we have as little use for people who carry religious prejudices into our politics as for those who carry prejudices of caste or nationality.

We must Americanize the newcomers to our shores in every way, in speech, in political ideas and principles, and in their way of looking at the relations between Church and State. We have no room for any people who do not act and vote simply as Americans, and as nothing else. We stand unalterably in favor of the public-school system in its entirety. We believe that English, and no other language, is that in which all the school exercises should be conducted. We are against any division of the school fund, and against any appropriation of public money for sectarian purposes. It is not only necessary to Americanize the immigrants of foreign birth who settle among us, but it is even more necessary for those among us who are by birth and descent already Americans not to throw away our birthright, and, with incredible and contemptible folly, wander back to bow down before the alien gods whom our forefathers forsook. Those of our countrymen who do believe in American inferiority are always individuals who, however cultivated, have some organic weakness in their moral or mental make-up; and the great mass of our people, who are robustly patriotic, and who have sound, healthy minds, are justified in regarding these feeble renegades with a half-impatient and half-amused scorn.

The Lesson

Some Americans either do not know or don’t want to know what legal immigration is. The group that doesn’t want to acknowledge legal immigration includes legislators at the highest levels of government. They believe any immigration, legal or illegal, is okay. This country is full of immigrants — most legal and descendants of first-generation legal immigrants. Some are illegal and this is simply not right and not fair to the many fine legal immigrants who waited their turns and persevered to obtain U.S. citizenship. Throughout the nation, we have many descendants of illegal immigrants who obviously had no intent of circumventing our rule of law. They should find and pursue a road to U.S. citizenship. Over time, the immigration dilemma will solve itself if we embark on a rational solution to our current immigration system.


Sanctuary cities are the geographical equivalent of “safe spaces” university students claim—neither have a legal basis to stand on. Neither should exist in the United States. Legal and coherent immigration will help to save our great republic. The New Americanism demands it.

Author: Bob Brescia serves as the Executive Director of the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute, Odessa, TX. His latest book is Destination Greatness – Creating a New Americanism. Bob has a doctoral degree with distinction in Executive Leadership from The George Washington University. He also serves as Chairman of the Board of Basin PBS – West Texas public television. Please contact him at [email protected] or Twitter: @Robert_Brescia.

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