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Editorial: The sanctuary city debate needs less heat, more light

Editorial: The sanctuary city debate needs less heat, more light
Posted at 11:54 AM, Feb 09, 2017

Well now, this whole sanctuary city business has turned into quite a tussle, hasn’t it?

That’s too bad, because the political game-playing around it has obscured what should be a real conversation about immigrants in our community.

Just a reminder to the politicos on both sides of the aisle who are playing to the crowd on this one: These are real people we’re talking about. Their safety and their families aren’t something to be toyed with for political gain. They, and we, deserve a more level-headed, thoughtful approach.

Mayor John Cranley kicked off the silliness when he took to a podium at City Hall, along with about a dozen other Democrats and others, to declare Cincinnati to be a “sanctuary city.”

Mayor John Cranley, his wife, Dena, and others make a sanctuary city announcement.

His pronouncement may have served as a reassuring message to those living here in an undocumented status. But it changed nothing.

The county sheriff said he will continue to enforce the law as he always has, cooperating with federal immigration officers when asked to, but not going out of his way to sniff out those who may be here illegally. The Cincinnati police told us pretty much the same thing.

That’s the way they’ve been operating for a few years and nothing was changing, they said.

Josh Mandel

But up in Columbus, the treasurer of Ohio was displeased. Josh Mandel, who happens to be making another run at the U.S. Senate, raced down here to express his indignation at the mayor’s announcement.

He even suggested that Cranley’s announcement meant that Cincinnati was “eliminating law enforcement.”

Nonsense.

First of all, Cranley’s announcement really didn’t mean anything. Cranley himself said as much Wednesday as he tried to minimize the repercussions. “The City of Cincinnati has not and will not violate federal laws,” he said in a prepared statement. (Federal immigration laws are enforced by federal agencies.)

But what was worse was Josh Mandel’s decision to use the occasion to inflame fears and prejudices. He did nothing to help the public better understand this complicated issue. Instead, he politicized it even further.

He and a Republican state rep from Middletown, Candice Keller, went so far as to  propose a law that would make city officials liable for felony charges if an undocumented immigrant committed a crime in a so-called “sanctuary city.”

The ACLU promptly labeled their idea “extreme” and “unconstitutional.”

What’s also extreme is how the sanctuary city question has suddenly become a political football. We’re getting a taste of what is shaping up to be a wedge issue that political candidates will apparently use all year long to divide voters and fire up their political bases.

It’s unfortunate. Immigration and the question of undocumented immigrants are major policy issues that deserve thoughtful dialogue based on facts and informed by compassion and our shared values.

They certainly deserve more than the political grandstanding they’ve received here in the last week.

Mandel, Cranley and any other politician engaged in the immigration and sanctuary city debate owes it to the public to be thoughtful, informed and transparent about it.

Leave the politics behind.