What does it mean to be a sanctuary city? To Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, it seems, nothing more nor less than another stepping stone to higher office.
Forget the fact that “sanctuary” cities are often more about political speech than practice. Declaring itself a sanctuary doesn’t require or even allow a city to break laws. And in 2012, in overturning many provisions of an Arizona law directing a state police crackdown against immigrants, the U.S. Supreme Court found that immigration enforcement powers broadly reside in the federal government, not local governments.
But with his eye on the U.S. Senate, Mandel supports a plan to ban sanctuary jurisdictions in Ohio.
Cleveland.com’s Jackie Borchardt reports the proposal, which has not yet been introduced, would forbid cities from limiting or banning cooperation by their police departments with federal immigration officials.
Borchardt also reports that designation as a sanctuary city “often means local police … do not inquire about someone’s immigration status during routine police work or decline to detain people after they’ve been freed without a warrant obtained by [federal authorities].”
There’s a local law enforcement reason for that: Fear of being grilled about citizenship may deter crime witnesses and crime victims from helping police. And regardless of whether someone is a citizen or noncitizen, the Fourth Amendment’s protections against illegal searches and seizures apply.
That’s not how Mandel sees it. The yet-to-be introduced bill, sponsored by state Rep. Candice Keller, a Republican from Middletown in southwest Ohio, “is about protecting parents and kids here in Ohio,” Mandel said.
Let’s put it more bluntly: The proposal is about protecting Mandel’s bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2018.
Mandel, once on Lyndhurst City Council, then an Ohio House member, and beginning in 2011, state treasurer, can’t seek re-election because of term limits.
Keller’s bill, as currently being discussed in draft form, would go beyond outlawing such cities.
Borchardt reports that, under the proposal, mayors and other elected officials could be sent to prison for up to 18 months and fined up to $5,000 for crimes committed in their jurisdictions by undocumented immigrants; in civil suits officials and localities could be subject to damages of up to $3 million. And the bill would hold sanctuary cities’ elected officials criminally liable for crimes committed on their turf by undocumented immigrants, even though the officials lacked prior knowledge.
Such outrageous and extreme provisions fly in the face of established U.S. law and custom to hold only those who participate, conspire in or have knowledge of a crime criminally liable for their actions.
A city has the right to say that it will not assist federal officials as they seek to enforce federal immigration laws but even a “sanctuary” designation doesn’t empower a city to break the law.
So, as much as anything, the proposed bill would, in practical terms, be an attack on local officials’ free speech rights — all in the name of Mandel’s political ambitions. That is a sour trade-off, indeed.