Sanctuary Cities

You're Not Really a 'Sanctuary City' If You Keep Sending the Police to Harass the Poor

Oppressive municipal codes expose immigrants to potential deportation methods.

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Street vendors
Erik Mcgregor/ZUMA Press/Newscom

After years and years of harassment, arrests, and private property destruction, the City of Los Angeles has finally decriminalized street vending. Jesse Walker took note of the decision a few weeks ago. There are tens of thousands of street vendors within the Los Angeles area who now have a legal avenue to make a living (money-grubbing city permitting and inspection schemes notwithstanding).

The Los Angeles City Council didn't make this abrupt change because they suddenly realized their oppressive municipal regulations were harming its poorest citizens. It happened because Los Angeles has declared itself to be a "sanctuary city," where police decline to check to immigration status of those they interact with or those who end up in their custody. President Donald Trump promised a crackdown on illegal immigration, particularly down near the border to Mexico. By arresting street vendors, they could potentially be introducing them into a legal system where federal immigration agents would step in and deport them if it turned out they were in the country illegally.

But that's just one tiny chunk of the massive iceberg of municipal laws and codes that can trip up immigrants and city residents and force encounters with police. Why stop with just street vending? Shakeer Rahman and Robin Steinberg of Bronx Defenders, a criminal defense advocacy organization for the poor in that New York community, took to The New York Times op-ed pages to point out that there are all sorts of ways that cities use law enforcement and oppressive regulations that harm poor immigrants. These have always been bad policies that made life miserable and even harsher for urban citizens. Now they have an even greater potential to sweep immigrants up in a system that could separate them from their families and deport them:

Many of these unnecessary arrests stem from the discredited idea that a draconian crackdown on the most minor offenses — littering, selling loose cigarettes, biking on the sidewalk — will prevent more serious crimes. This model of policing, known as broken windows or zero tolerance, helped to drive mass incarceration. Its next cost could be mass deportation.

While the federal government runs immigration courts and prisons, local police departments are its eyes and ears. Across the country, whenever they arrest someone, city departments send fingerprints and other identifying information to federal officials. Whether the offense is as trivial as selling mango slices on the street without a license or taking a shortcut through a park after dark, federal agents are notified of an immigrant's name and how to find him or her.

President Trump has announced his plans for all those names. Each week, the White House will publish a list of crimes that immigrants have been accused of, and the government will prioritize the deportation of anyone "charged with any criminal offense," even if it never leads to a conviction.

They conclude: "Until cities reject the failed thinking that led to mass incarceration, local police and prosecutors will be doing the legwork for mass deportation."

Granted, the Bronx Defenders are using the circumstances to advance an argument they've been pushing for some time, and so is Reason. We've done a lot of reporting and blogging about how overcriminalization of "quality of life" issues in cities overwhelmingly ends up with law enforcement officials cracking down on poor people.

And yet, when these encounters go bad and lead to police violence, the emphasis is almost entirely on police abuse and never the underlying crime enforcement issues that brought the city to this point. It was wrong for New York police to strangle Eric Garner to death for selling black market cigarettes, but urban progressives flat out do not want to discuss the oppressive taxation and regulatory atmosphere that forced that interaction. Apparently it would have been fine for police to arrest Garner or fine him and otherwise ruin his life via municipal regulation. Literal strangulation is wrong, but apparently doing so metaphorically through the legal code is just fine.

The Trump immigration initiative should serve as a reminder that as big a bully municipal governments may be, the feds have a bigger stick. This is an opportunity for city governments to consider the way their own codes and policies are making the lives of their poor citizens miserable. If they want to use fear of Trump as an excuse to dump all sorts of nasty regulations, so be it.

NEXT: Is it Religious Liberty or Discrimination? Yes.

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  1. Interesting article.

    I would also like to take this opportunity to appeal to Mr. Shackford, once again, a conclusion to that highly titillating story from a few days ago that was abruptly cut off at the knees, involving you, a younger Shackford in college with friends, and rural Missouri white power young toughs. Thank you in advance!

    1. Okay, so we arrived at the campground and didn’t realize anything was unusual (all white folks in rural Missouri is not a red flag, obvs.).

      We went canoeing the next day. The way it works is that you canoe down river to various landing points and then take buses back to your campground. We discovered who were were surrounded by when we did the canoe trip and jumped on the buses. We were the first ones on and then it started filling up with dudes with unusual tattoos. We didn’t realize all the symbology until we saw a guy with “WHITE POWER” literally tattooed on the backs of his arms.

      We kept our mouths shut on the 30-minute drive back to the campground. They were singing along to hardcore neonazi metal blasted out of a boombox. People were giving Nazi salutes to the bus at some of the drop off points.

      Nothing happened but we were seriously spooked. This was a state campground and we weren’t expecting anything like that.

      1. prolly just trolling you Scott LOL

      2. “Boom box”?

        The proper term is ghetto blaster.

        1. Depends on what decade we’re talking about. And maybe the place. I spent a lot of my childhood in ghettos and we never called it a “ghetto blaster”.

      3. Awesome, Scott. Tell me, was it the Whoosah? Bass River? Meramec? Current? Black river?

      4. That’s disappointing. What with the potential for Hugo Boss to enter the story, the gay angle kind of peters out.

  2. Something people in general, and especially people on the left, fail to understand is that every government rule, no matter how innocuous, is ultimately enforced with deadly force.

    1. Oh please, it’s not like anyone would get killed for something minor like being suspected of selling “loosies”.

      1. Certainly not, its not like we live in a dystopic hellscape.

  3. This is one of the ways that I think Latin immigrants could improve the USA. In case you don’t personally know any of them, or haven’t spent much time in the countries south of our border, they are very much into the personal freedom thing. Even though a lot of them tend to think government is responsible for their well being, they don’t much like government meddling in their personal lives. In fact, they will summarily ignore any nanny laws to the extent that those laws, if they exist in those countries, are ignored by not some, but by all. Is there a drinking age law in any country in South America? No one cares. Are there seat belt laws? No one cares. Do they put up yellow plastic barricades in the street and force you to keep your beer inside of it? LOL! It’s not possible. Can you drink on the beach. Yes, what the hell sort of stupid question is that? Tulpa and Cytotoxic hardest hit.

    1. Do cars drive on the right or left? No one cares. Should cars emit plumes of smoke while driving? No one cares. Age of consent? Say it with me.

      This is classic principals not principles logic.

      1. Go ahead and compare online gambling and murder. I know you want to. Now go away and cry little proggy, because you’re afraid that somewhere in the world, someone can enjoy a drink on the beach without being harassed by brainless nannies, like you. Go on, cry little proggy, cry!

        /troll becomes white space, never heard from again.

      2. Here. This might help you not be such a dipshit in the future (although I doubt it).

    2. Drinking on the beach with my roommate was great. A backpack full of rum is the way to travel.

  4. Let’s see if Reason will take an Off-topic comment, because the on-topic ones keep disappearing:

    File under $100 laptop with plastic handcrank:

    Remember that idea to build a thousand tiny houses to temporarily get the homeless off the streets? Well, a year has passed. We only built 28

    1. Let’s see if Reason will take an Off-topic comment, because the on-topic ones keep disappearing

      The endeavour, you see, requires dedication. Until the technical issue(s) resolve, keep your pre-submission comment on your Clipboard or a fresh text editor instance. Nextly, if your attempt fails, preserve your comment, proceed to the H&R main page, re-engage the article and comments, refresh #comment like 12 times, do a shimmy and a shake, waft your own farts up into your face with a cupped hand, let out a loud scream, then paste your reserved comment into a new submission attempt. It’s been working for me so far, but there is a lag sometimes on the order of minutes in how long it takes for a new comment to be visible.

      1. And always Preview first.

      2. I hope whoever they hire as a web developer is more competent than the current bunch of fucktards.

    2. This is different from projects how? They would be less comfortable for extended living and you can’t fill them up with crotch droppings, I guess.

      1. They should be designed with chairs made out of swords to discourage long-term squatting.

        OK, in between all the progressive hand-wringing they do claim that these things are helping.

        Fourteen got bus tickets to rejoin family members in other states

        LOL

        1. Yup, and controversial. There was a handwringer in the local paper about the city offloading homeless to other places. Everyone was relieved to find out that they only offloaded people who had housing or shelter where they were going, so that way we hold on to as many permanently homeless people as possible.

  5. “You’re Not Really a ‘Sanctuary City’ If You Keep Sending the Police to Harass the Poor”

    Never mistake pandering to minorities for votes and virtue signalling to proggies as markers for a compassionate nature.

  6. Then Chelsea can be elected and Make America Greedy Again by re-instating all the petty mind-numbing big-brother-may-I rules and regulations.

  7. I don’t believe uninvited persons should be allowed in my own home. I feel the same way about uninvited persons in my country. I have had permanent resident visas in Costa Rica, and now in Colombia. Illegals are illegal, no matter what country they try to invade…

    1. It ain’t your country, bud. It’s everybody’s which is to say nobody gets to decide, unless you think mobocracy’s are good when they agree with you and bad otherwise.

      Who set you up as the mortgage holder?

      1. That’s stupid, on steroids.
        Here’s an exercise: look up the word “republic”.
        That might give you an idea on who gets to decide, and the decision has already been made, in El Oso’s favor.

    2. Who you allow in your house is your business. Who is allowed in your next door neighbor’s house is his. His house, his rules, not yours.

      1. Who you allow in your house is your business. Who is allowed in your next door neighbor’s house is his. His house, his rules, not yours.

        No, that’s actually not true. Many houses are part of private associations, formed to pay for the upkeep of common areas and ensure a certain environment. Towns and cities are really not all that different: property owners pay a ton of money for them, and they should therefore have a say over them.

        And when it comes to immigration, every immigrant admitted into this country automatically receives thousands of dollars of benefits every years simply by being here (even more if they get welfare, health insurance, etc.); again, the people who pay for that have a right to say who is granted that privilege and who is not.

    3. You are right, and neither do I, regardless of who they look like.

  8. Good article and good quality overall today with others. Most havent been about trump which is a plus

    1. Most havent been about trump which is a plus

      Yes. Actually this gives me an idea I’d like to pitch to the Reason editors: “Trump Free Tuesdays*” Every Tuesday starting next week, none of the editors or contributors are allowed to blog about anything Trump.

      *I realize today’s Wednesday, but “Trump Free Tuesday” has the whole alliteration thing going for it.

  9. You’re Not Really a ‘Sanctuary City’ If You Keep Sending the Police to Harass the Poor

    Perhaps not, but you are a progressive city with leadership that cares more about virtue signaling than actually the helping the poor (immigrant or native born) that you claim to care to much about.

  10. Many of these unnecessary arrests stem from the discredited idea that a draconian crackdown on the most minor offenses

    It is? I mean, I’m open to the idea, but it’s pretty big assumption to take on faith.

    1. Been a while, but memory says after New York took to bragging about stop-and-frisk and other broken window crackdowns, various people compared their bragging to other cities and found no correlation between broken window crackdowns and crime rate (other than the petty crimes they busted people for). I have no citations, but I think it’s the kind of subject beloved of social scientists because it is full of statistics ready to mangle.

      1. It would be nice to find a middle ground between “complete indifference” (the usual state) and “draconian crackdown” (the state of affairs that did happen to coincide with a very dramatic drop in crime). Also, it would be nice if the media stopped conflating “offenses” that shouldn’t be at all illegal (selling loosies) and those that should be even if trivially (littering, turnstyle jumping).

        1. Most problems would resolve themselves if actual victims were the only ones who could prosecute (of course they could hire lawyers to do the actual work) and if they had to show actual harm with associated restitution. And yes, shop owners or sidewalk owners or street owners could prosecute people who drop their cigarette butts on the ground, because loser pays would include all costs, such as court costs, investigation costs, etc. If some tight-ass wanted to prosecute by getting DNA and finding the litterer, that would be his prerogative.

        2. The drop was the same in cites not doing all the hard core policing as those that did.

          1. “The drop coincided with…what? The 18th? 21st? anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

            What? Nobody likes that one any more?

    2. Well, it’s not decided science yet (Though its social science, which can likely never be decided fully), but you can start delving into the literature if you want:

      https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Broken_windows_theory

      Here is my quick understanding of both sides.

      Major Argument For:
      By controlling low level crime and disorder, we have a system to take out more major offenders earlier. That is, those who go around vandalizing buildings, are likely to commit other more serious crimes. We can arrest them early and keep them out. This also emphasizes police presence in areas, discouraging criminal activity. Perhaps most philosophically important, is that by taking care of these low level crimes that effect the livability of areas, people will take more pride in their homes, and thus are more likely to be engaged, and less likely to commit crimes to begin with. This is the idea that people who live in ghettos will vandalize, because they already live in shit, what’s another broken window?

      1. Major Argument Against:
        This puts people in direct interaction with police more and more frequently. The random pat downs in New York are a perfect example of this. This leads to more chances for police abuses of their authority. Combined with the fact that there are so many laws that most people can be found doing something illegal, there is suddenly a lot of friction between police and the public. This causes distrust of the police, which in turn makes it less likely that people call in crimes. As well as forcing animosity between the public and police that leads to more extreme altercations occurring.

        So, this is my basic understanding. There is a lot of literature on this, what I have seen (which is admittedly little, this is not my field and so I am no expert on it) indicates that a lot of studies are trending away from broken window policing, but once again, its social science so its always influenced by a tremendous amount of variables that make finding one answer difficult/impossible.

        1. Nice summary of both sides.

          re: direct interaction with police more and more frequently

          If American cops didn’t behave like such animals this would be less of an issue. I guess it’s better than the even more rampant corruption in some cultures but worse than at least one northern European culture that comes to mind. (Ihre Papieren, bitte!)

          1. It’s who they hire.

            There’s subcultures, cultural enclaves and geographic locations where a lot of young men actually *like* the police culture as it is now. They have friends, relatives on the force. The stereotype of the school bully graduating quickly to local police force has some truth to it. They see state-sanctioned bullying. and, with the popularity of asset forfeiture, the possibility of a gig as an actual fucking highwayman. How glam.

            PDs hire from this miguided cohort and life goes on.

      2. By controlling low level crime and disorder, we have a system to take out more major offenders earlier. That is, those who go around vandalizing buildings, are likely to commit other more serious crimes.

        If someone vandalizes my building, I want them carted off by the police by the police. No, not because of some dubious social science “broken windows” theory, but because they vandalized my building.

        “Low level crime” is an attitude by city officials that say “we don’t give a f*ck about your neighborhood or about you”. Graffiti removal, for example, often costs thousands of dollars. That may be “low level” to some cushy bureaucrat, it’s certainly not “low level” to the people stuck with the bill.

  11. The Los Angeles City Council didn’t make this abrupt change because they suddenly realized their oppressive municipal regulations were harming its poorest citizens. It happened because Los Angeles has declared itself to be a “sanctuary city,” where police decline to check to immigration status of those they interact with or those who end up in their custody. President Donald Trump promised a crackdown on illegal immigration, particularly down near the border to Mexico. By arresting street vendors, they could potentially be introducing them into a legal system where federal immigration agents would step in and deport them if it turned out they were in the country illegally.

    So they stopped busting street vendors because busting them would enter them into a criminal justice system in the city which refuses to determine their immigration status or inform the feds of their of their status. That doesn’t make much sense.

    More like they did this to pander to the demographic, to emphasize who’s side they are on. They must be completely running out of ways to pander by this point, to have actually hit upon a sensible change like this. I wonder if there’s any right, entitlement, or anything else that California can control, which doesn’t make a point of including illegals. Kinda doubt it.

  12. Mayor di Blasio: it’s time. Tell America New York City is a sanctuary city. It may be hard to make it reality, but the boost to morale could be substantial. We have to start standing together here.

  13. Large liberal cities stop targeting illegal immigrants now that conservative buffoon is in office. Story at eleven.

  14. I would say Asian owned restaurants probably outnumber the Mexican ones 3 to 1 in LA. They might not be intimidated by Mexican hot dog vendors, but if vendors with carts with large pots of rice and broth hit the street, they’ll be worried. Food carts and stalls (like pojangmacha in Korea and Yatai in Japan) are already a feature in Asia. And America is currently gripped by the overhead evasive sharing economy.

    This sort of decriminalization theoretically creates separate classes based on citizenship, which is typically an argument against immigration restriction. Food carts might naturally evolve into a more permanent food stall or tents. Big business might want in on the action. Does LA love freedom more than it hates Trump?

  15. “Many of these unnecessary arrests stem from the discredited idea that a draconian crackdown on the most minor offenses”

    “Broken windows” may be discredited idea, but as one who lived in NYC during both the Dinkins and Giuliani administrations I can assure you that SOMETHING made life on the street for average citizens become noticeably better from one time to the other. Fewer panhandlers, fewer public urinators, cleaner subway stations.

    I certainly take the libertarain/REASON point of view on hassling petty criminals, and the disparate impact on the poor, but something definitely changed at that time. And however it occurred (with all due respect to the risk of infringing the rights of the “the poor”) it was a welcome change for millions of everyday walking-to-work New Yorkers.

    1. FWIW, I’m not a Giuliani fan at all. I think he’s a grandstanding jerk who made his reputation frog-walking Wall Street denizens in front of the TV cameras and didn’t do much of anything for the City. But many New Yorkers will attest that whoever did what during his years as mayor made daily life for NYC residents noticeably better.

  16. This model of policing, known as broken windows or zero tolerance, helped to drive mass incarceration

    Ah, from the “making stuff up” school of activism..

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  18. The Los Angeles City Council didn’t make this abrupt change because they suddenly realized their oppressive municipal regulations were harming its poorest citizens. It happened because Los Angeles has declared itself to be a “sanctuary city,” where police decline to check to immigration status of those they interact with or those who end up in their custody. President Donald Trump promised a crackdown on illegal immigration, ???? ???? ????? ??????? ????? ???? particularly down near the border to Mexico. By arresting street vendors, they could potentially be introducing them into a legal system where federal immigration agents would step in and deport them if it turned out they were in the country illegally.

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