EXCLUSIVE – Lonergan: The Popular Revolt Against Sanctuary Laws Is Growing

Orange County joins fight against California sanctuary law
Jeff Gritchen/The Orange County Register via AP

If there was ever an example of how the establishment media doesn’t mirror reality, there is no better representation than its portrayal of the current debate over immigration.

On that issue, we are repeatedly told by journalists, pundits and entertainers, there is near-consensus throughout the land: the people want open borders. The very idea of a wall on our southern border is mean-spirited and un-American. Illegal aliens living among us are as noble as the civil rights marchers of the 1960s. Federal immigration officers who apprehend illegal aliens conjure up images of jack-booted thugs in an Orwellian police state. American citizens should welcome illegal aliens into their communities, as the exceedingly peaceful, hard-working arrivals are the engine of our economy. To resist any of this narrative is evidence of racist, non-inclusive beliefs in your own dark heart.

It is at this point that reality has an annoying habit of intruding to blow the whole story to smithereens.

The reality is that many Americans reject this narrative. A poll earlier this year found that, while a majority favor some type of legalization for illegal aliens brought here by their parents when minors, they also strongly support a reduction of overall immigration levels as well as a border wall, limits to chain migration, and an end to the visa lottery.

This is more than just a strong belief; it is translating into action. Of all the components in the immigration debate, few hit closer to home than sanctuary laws. Many people — including legal immigrants — have strong reactions to the idea of welcoming a population that includes violent criminals, identity thieves, and low-wage job competitors to live among them. Some politicians seem to love the idea, as a number have enacted laws that forbid local law enforcement from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

California has become Ground Zero in this battle. At least a dozen cities and counties there have passed resolutions to oppose state sanctuary laws. When the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) began writing a friend-of-the-court brief to support the Justice Department’s lawsuit against California, it reached out to communities there to gauge their interest in participation. A number of jurisdictions enthusiastically chose to join the brief. Others contacted IRLI on their own. Predictably, some in the California-based media suggested that IRLI was trying to stir up interest in opposing the state’s sanctuary laws where it did not previously exist. That is absolutely false and more evidence of agenda-driven media narrative-spinning. The number of communities on the record in opposition to the state laws surpassed IRLI’s expectations and contradicts those who would claim that California’s population is overwhelmingly in favor of its sanctuary laws. The anti-sanctuary movement in California is real, organic and steadily growing.

While much of California’s leadership appears tone deaf on the matter of sanctuary laws, their colleagues in other states are actually listening to their constituents. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott pushed through SB4, which bans communities there from enacting sanctuary laws. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit unanimously overturned a lower court ruling that temporarily blocked some of SB4’s provisions. Similarly, a new law in Iowa calls for state funding to be revoked from cities and communities in the Hawkeye State that intentionally violate federal immigration laws.

Despite the growing popular revolt, an uphill battle remains. For every Texas and Iowa, there are pro-sanctuary politicians with the will and authority to defy federal law. Virginia state lawmakers recently presented Gov. Ralph Northam with a Texas-like bill that would outlaw sanctuary cities. Despite campaigning as an anti-sanctuary candidate last year, Northam promptly vetoed the bill, citing the purported additional costs that complying with immigration laws would impose on jurisdictions in the commonwealth. Northam’s political strategy is apparently to run as Gov. Abbott (anti-sanctuary) to get elected and then govern as California Gov. Jerry Brown (pro-sanctuary) once in office. Brace yourself, Virginians, your communities are about to become less safe and more chaotic.

Much of the media have proven to be dishonest brokers when it comes to reporting on immigration issues. If you oppose sanctuary laws, support a border wall, and embrace the rule of law, congratulations. You are part of the underreported, underestimated resistance that is making a difference in the battle for America’s future.


Brian Lonergan is director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.

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