What we need to know about sanctuary cities

Time after time our Founding Fathers recognized God’s hand in the shaping of America.  Today, God is continuing His work in America, but it’s in a nation that has clearly lost its moral compass.  One area of concern is the manner of dealing with criminal behavior.  Most recent in the news is the role of  Sanctuary Cities.  Just how do Sanctuary Cities compare with the Cities of Refuge which God instituted in Numbers 35:1?  Here is a nice little article that describes the backgrounds for these two types of cities where persons who have come athwart the law can receive asylum.  How similar are they?  What is the story on how they came into existance?  Carol Hatcher answers these questions in her article that appeared first at: The Presidential Prayer Team.

Morality in America

Morality in America
Does the Bible support cities of sanctuary?
By Carol Hatcher

More than 16,000 people are murdered in America each year, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That factors out to approximately 44 people a day – a sobering number. While the numbers are not likely to decrease before the return of Jesus, both national leaders and police officers work to keep that number as low as possible.

So how does the death of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle make sense? Kathryn was walking along Pier 14 in San Francisco with her father when she was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant with quite the criminal record – seven felonies and five deportations to be exact. If you are wondering how a convicted criminal like Juan Lopez-Sanchez was on the streets, you aren’t alone. Everyone is pointing fingers and no one is taking blame. 

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deposited Sanchez to San Francisco authorities due to an outstanding warrant there. According to an official with the Department of Homeland Security and ICE, “The federal government did not intervene and take him into custody in anticipation of deporting him because it has a policy of pursuing all outstanding criminal warrants against a subject before deporting him.”

Reports show that ICE issued a detainer on Sanchez, meaning he was to be kept in custody until immigration officials could pick him up. In other words, after you finish prosecution, let us know. The San Francisco Sheriff’s office, however, released Sanchez since San Francisco is a “sanctuary” city and does not adhere to federal immigration laws. Many are up in arms over the city’s sanctuary status, and while this topic is at the top of the news desks now, San Francisco’s laws providing asylum are not new by any stretch of the imagination. They are 26-years old.

While there is no actual legal definition for sanctuary city (it varies from place to place), the outcome is similar – the local officials do not have to abide by immigration laws. One may be surprised to learn that San Francisco is not alone. There are over 200 sanctuary cities in 43 states. According to an October 2014 report from ICE, close to 1,800 immigrants were released from sanctuary cities and subsequently charged with 7,500 new crimes, including rape, child sex abuse and murder.

These “protector” cities originated in the 1980s after an effort from churches to provide a safe place for Central Americans running from a violent home. Many could not obtain official refugee status from the federal government and needed to escape a bad situation. San Francisco’s laws were established in 1989 and are called the City and County of Refuge Ordinance.

The church’s hand in the origin, along with the name “Refuge Ordinance,” gives Christians pause to dig deep into Old Testament history. Cities of Refuge were described in the book of Numbers. “Select cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person without intent may flee there.” (Numbers 35:11) God established these cities to provide asylum for those who accidentally committed murder. He continued with further instructions. “The cities shall be for you a refuge from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation for judgment.” (Numbers 35:12)

In essence, the city was merely a holding place for the accused. The Bible says nothing of releasing those charged with a crime – only that the manslayer may wait out his time in the city without fear of retribution until he stands judgment. You could call it an ancient probation of sorts. Today’s cities of sanctuary and the cities of refuge in the Bible are not the same – not even close.

Since Adam and Eve’s fall from the Garden of Eden, this world has been full of sin. The immigrants aren’t to blame. The gun control laws aren’t to blame. The government isn’t to blame. Sanctuary cities are not to blame. The only one who can take all blame for murder, rape, abuse and drugs (to name a few) is Satan. If you want to be mad, be mad at him. And let that anger move you to prayer.

As the Lord leads, pray:

For the safety of those who live in sanctuary cities
For wisdom in writing and enforcing laws to keep this country safe
For the many immigrants and Americans who don’t know Christ
Carol Hatcher is a former elementary school teacher turned speaker and writer. She has contributed to many books and magazines and is a regular contributor to the Vantage Point devotional series.  She lives with her husband and three children in Buford, GA. .

About ronfurg

Former naval officer, federal investigator, forensic scientist, senior executive service member and pastor. In retirement serves as volunteer and life group leader at New Life Christian Church (www.newlife4me.com). Devoted to beautiful wife, kids and grandkids. Looking forward to the time when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
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