Sanctuary Policies Soundly Rejected In Two Local Ballot Initiatives
By David Jaroslav | FAIR Take | November 2019
Americans went to the polls recently in state and local elections throughout the country. In both a big liberal city in Arizona, and a small-town conservative county in New Jersey, local ballot initiatives asked voters to weigh in on sanctuary policies. And in both, sanctuary policies were defeated by wide margins.
Tucson, Arizona’s second-largest city, is also regarded as the bastion of Arizona liberalism. But that didn’t stop its voters from defeating a ballot initiative to declare it a sanctuary city by more than 71percent . On Election Day, 58,820 (71.4 percent) of Tucson’s voters opposed Prop. 205, while 23,562 (28.6 percent) voted for it.
The open-borders group, the People’s Defense Initiative (PDI), proposed the so-called “Keeping Tucson Families Free and Together” initiative, Proposition (Prop.) 205. It was filed last December and in July was approved for the ballot. Prop 205 would have prohibited the city’s agencies from participating or cooperating with immigration enforcement in any way. Specifically it barred honoring immigration detainers and immigration status inquiries, unless there were at “least two distinct factors leading to a reasonable suspicion.” Finally, the initiative included a provision that if Tucson officials did not comply with the sanctuary policy, illegal aliens could sue the city.
If passed, Prop 205 clearly would have violated the state’s anti-sanctuary law, SB 1070. As Tucson City Attorney Mike Rankin delineated in a memo to Mayor Jonathan Rothschild (D) and the city council, Prop 205 would likely lead to the state cutting off funds to the city. Moreover, its passage could present Tucson with additional financial penalties: State Representatives John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), Bret Roberts (R-Maricopa), and Jay Lawrence (R-Scottsdale) announced they planned to propose new legislation which would allow victims of crimes committed by illegal aliens to sue the sanctuary jurisdiction for monetary damages.
Faced with these prospects, the mayor and all eight members of the all-Democratic city council publicly opposed the initiative. This so outraged the PDI that they sued the mayor and council claiming “electioneering.” The court determined PDI lacked standing and the suit was quickly dismissed.
FAIR’s Matthew Tragesser said “[i]t’s refreshing to see Tucson voters and council members work collectively to reject policies that undermine federal law and harbor criminal illegal aliens … Tucson’s rejected sanctuary proposition should serve as a model for other jurisdictions wishing to fight back against policies that minimize public safety and encourage more illegal immigration into communities.”
Nonetheless, state legislators haven’t taken their eyes off Tucson for any informal sanctuary policies, and have said they’re still moving forward on the civil damages bill for sanctuary victims next year.
Sussex County, New Jersey
In Sussex, the voters by a 2 to 1 margin supported an initiative that says the county freeholders should cooperate and make county resources available to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This initiative disregards state Attorney General (AG) Gurbir Grewal’s sanctuary directive.
AG Grewal’s sanctuary directive, issued last November and effective in March, bans almost all cooperation by state and local law enforcement with federal immigration authorities. Many believe Governor Phil Murphy (D), an outspoken advocate for sanctuary policies, was the impetus for the directive and not AG Grewal.
After several heated exchanges with Grewal over the language of a proposed ballot question that would disregardthe sanctuary directive, the all-Republican Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders adopted its final version in August.
Sussex County Sheriff Michael Strada (R), a vigorous supporter of the county ballot question, said “I can’t let somebody walk out the front door of that jail that has a warrant for them to be detained by immigration, because anything could happen, and I don’t want that on me.” The county’s voters took his advice to heart, approving the anti-sanctuary ballot question 22,081 (66.78 percent) to 10,982 (33.22 percent).
AG Grewal immediately dismissed the result as merely expressing the county’s “views” and threatened that “[t]o the extent that any law enforcement agencies misunderstand today’s resolution and refuse to comply with the Immigrant Trust Directive, we will take appropriate action.”
But Sheriff Strada has repeatedly said he will honor ICE detainers and otherwise cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. It is possible he may now also join one of the two lawsuits filed against Grewal over the sanctuary directive, by Ocean County and by Cape May County and its sheriff, or he may file his own.