Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Assembly Work Session on Anti-Sanctuary City Ordinance

The basic issues:

1. Paul Bauer has introduced an ordinance that would, among other things, require police to check immigration status of people they stop for traffic violations and to develop a working agreement with Homeland Security. This comes about because Anchorage has made itself a "Sanctuary City."

2. Hispanic civic organizations are strongly opposed because they believe they will be singled out as well as other people who 'look' foreign or have accents.

3. The Assembly Sub Committee had testimony from the following:
  • Paul Bauer, the Assembly member who introduced the ordinance, had 30 minutes to present a slide show.
  • Municipal Attorney said their analysis did not find constitutional problems, though there might be some problems with separation of powers issues - the assembly makes laws and the administration implements the laws. So if the ordinance would tell the police how they had to do their job, that might raise problems.
  • The Municipal Prosecutor had several issues
    • the negative effect it would have on police-community relations - that it would reduce trust of government and thus tips people give the police which is an important part of crime prevention and investigation
    • the effect on reporting domestic violence - women would not report their sponsors for fear of losing sponsor plus other issues
    • workload for his office
  • Chief of Police Heun said the would continue doing what they do now. If they stop someone they ask for a driver's license. If the person doesn't have one they call it in to check and talk to them to see if we have probable cause to detain them. We have a functional arrangement with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).
  • Robin Bronin, Alaska Immigration Justice Project (my notes aren't too good at this point, she reiterated points about impact on community and also about domestic violence I believe.)
  • Angelina Estrada-Burney from Bridge Builders - Their organization's board has unanimously voted to urge the Assembly to vote no on this.
  • Margaret Stock - this was by far the most impressive testimony. She introduced herself as a conservative Republican. I shouldn't be amazed anymore when I meet someone from Anchorage who turns out to be a nationally recognized expert on a topic. In this case - checking the web after the work session - I've found all sorts of things about her. From
    Margaret Stock is an associate professor of law in the Department of Law, United States Military Academy, West Point, N.Y.; an attorney; and a lieutenant colonel in the Military Police Corps.
    She had a number of problems with the ordinance.
    • The term sanctuary city is not a legal term, but one created on talk shows and blogs
    • The Immigration Reform Law Institute that is pushing this 'ideological experiment' is using Anchorage as a Guinea Pig but if Anchorage gets sued, they won't help with the legal costs, and they are proud that Paul Bauer has introduced their ordinance.
    • Generally went through a list of practical implications of this type of ordinance, written, she alleged, 'by people with no practical experience with immigration law'
      • the illegal alien lists used are extremely unreliable
      • causes people who are not a problem to be reported
      • lawsuits will result as people are wrongly detained
    • The Cost Benefit analysis is way off - it will be a very expensive ordinance because of future litigation

I've said in previous posts that both my parents were immigrants to the US and that my grandparents were unable to get visas to the US and perished in Nazi Germany. So I'm come to this with a bias.

I did get a chance to talk to Paul Bauer alone after the meeting. He talks calmly, politely, and reasonably. He has a background in the security field and said he was stationed in Berlin for a while in the military and they gathered information from East Berlin. So it is quite believable that security is a high priority item for him, for which some individual liberties are legitimately sacrificed. And at some point I might agree with that general principle, but I suspect that on a continuum from 1 to 10, he would be ready to sacrifice liberties at 1 or 2, while I would be waiting for 8 or 9. He also talked about prevention - that he wanted to deal with gangs before they became an issue and the same here. Even if illegal immigration is not a problem yet in Anchorage - and everyone agreed that we don't have very accurate numbers - he wants to get ahead of the curve.

But his arguments about national security [he started with a slide of Al Qaeda terrorists] seem to be contradicted by other parts of his argument, particularly when he emphasized that 50% of the "illegals" were Mexican and another large percentage were of other Central/South American heritage. I don't think that we are worried about Mexican being terrorists.

I don't really understand why people get so emotional about immigration. All non-Native Americans were once immigrants. There is some primal fear that is at work here. I can't help but believe that for many it is the fear of 'the other.' This is legislation that the blatant racists can get behind and say is about "obeying the law," not race. Just because sites like Alaska Pride support this law, doesn't make it racist, but it doesn't make me feel more comfortable.

If you check websites on immigration, clearly this is a hot button issue. Is immigration the 'gay marriage' of the 2008 election? Is this one of the Republican wedge issues? Is this ordinance and the attacks on Begich over the budget part of the conservative offensive to tarnish the Deomocrats' most successful politician?

1 comment:

  1. Good post Steve. This reminds me of the English only arguement. I work with lots of immigrants and to tell you the truth sometimes I would rather get rid of the white people and keep my co-workers who were born elsewhere.

    Why? They work hard, are honest, are very family oriented, seem to have no agenda other than to make a living and raise their families. Hell, you would think the conservatives would love them! Granted the folks I work with are legal immigrants but I bet if they weren't they would have the same positive characteristics.

    I don't think this is about Begich. I think the immigration issue is driven by fear. Yes, we have laws and security issues but our biggest security issues aren't people from central America. I agree with that. It's from people from the middle east. Illegal immigrants from central American don't want to kill us. They just want to work. Perhaps we should concentrate on that area of the world first?


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