Posted by Brad @ 4:38 pm on July 25th 2012

Immigrant-Friendly Cities

While Arizona has gotten all the headlines, a number of other American locations – mostly rust-belt cities – have flung open their doors. Dayton, OH, Detroit, MI, and Chicago, IL, have notably explicitly invited immigrants, without particular concern for their legality. But the real welcome mat may have been laid out by Baltimore, MD, and its mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

In March, Rawlings-Blake signed an order prohibiting police and social agencies from asking anyone about immigration status. The order also says no city funds, resources, or personnel shall be used to investigate or arrest people solely for a civil violation of federal immigration law. And it asks U.S. immigration agents to tell people they arrest that they are from the federal government, not the city.

Incidentally, I love Baltimore. Great city – I go there quite a bit.

But more to the point, I love this. I am, in most cases, a rule of law guy, but frankly our immigration laws are so f-ed up – and so conducive to NOT coming in legally – and our demagoguery is so revolting, that I find myself much more on Baltimore’s side than Arizona’s. Immigrants, including illegal immigrants, are so overwhelmingly good for the country that I don’t even know that it particularly merits a debate. For every politician in America, every immigration debate seems to start with “you have to secure the border first”. I take a different tack. I think every immigration debate has to start with “you have to drastically and immediately expand legal immigration opportunities”, and the first hint that most immigration debates do not revolve around law and order but in fact revolve around just plain old fashioned dislike of immigrants is that virtually nobody influential even broaches that topic.

Anyway, good for Baltimore.


  1. You have gone wild with rage regarding rule of law issues on torture and executive authority. You have expressed major problems with the principle of jury nullification.

    The argument made by those who advocate executive immunity from prosecution on matters such as these, and jury nullification as well, is exactly the argument you make here: that the regulations are so f*cked up that it is commendable to violate them for the sake of a higher principle.

    I agree with you on both immigration and abuses of executive authority. The difference is that I don’t exempt people who agree with me on immigration from having to operate within the rules.

    I reserve that status for recreational drug users…

    Comment by Rojas — 7/25/2012 @ 5:19 pm

  2. I don’t disagree with preventing people from entering this country illegally, nor deporting them, if discovered, once here. You’re right, if you break the law, you’re subject to penalty, same as any other law.

    However, if we’re going to undergo a spat of new laws meant to stem the tide of illegal immigration, I would much, much prefer that we do so by opening open legal avenues of immigration, rather than, say, profiling Hispanics.

    As for Baltimore, I applaud them more in spirit than as a matter of public policy. They’re not doing anything substantively different than Arizona is, in that immigration is expressly a matter of federal law. The difference is that Arizona is seeking to add above-and-beyond that law, while Baltimore is deciding to leave it to the feds, not as an act of civil disobedience but instead in an act of enforcing the law as required, but no more. The best analogue, as you kind of allude to at the end, is medical marijuana. Arizona would be as if California decided to, on its own, enforce federal law by shutting down its medical marijuana dispensaries even where they aren’t violating state law – and in fact be extra-vigilant in doing so. Baltimore would be as if the state let those dispensaries adhere to state law and left them alone, and if the feds want to come in and bust them they’re welcome to but shouldn’t expect any help from the state.

    And for the record, the fact that I’ve gone wild with rage regarding rule of law issues does not necessarily follow that I am a worshiper of the inviolability of the state. I am a fan of civil disobedience, generally speaking. I don’t even believe bad laws should necessarily be followed (as a moral matter). What I support is those decisions, for whatever reason, having consequences and, in a society governed by law, adhering to those consequences. I think police have an absolute right to break up a sit-in, and I also think sit-ins are awesome. It’s SELECTIVE rule of law that enrages me – as if police came on 10 groups of sit-ins, maced three of them based on whatever criteria (which ones were brownest, say, or which ones are the best connected politically), and then left the other seven to do as they please. Or if Baltimore passed those measures, but only in relation to Europeans. It’s the selective waiving of laws in some cases but not others – or the selective enforcement of laws against some groups but not others – that is the path to tyranny.

    It is not Baltimore’s place to enforce these laws – they have not passed anything saying they will PREVENT the laws from being enforced. They have just withdrawn their (non-legally-obligated) cooperation, which is okay by me. It’s the same moral calculus as me not turning in my pot-smoking neighbors – I am not obligated to and don’t feel compelled to go above my legal obligation in the enforcement of the law. That I don’t immediately walk next door and perform a citizen’s arrest does not mean I believe in anarchy or even that I believe laws I don’t agree with should be discounted as laws.

    Comment by Brad — 7/25/2012 @ 6:38 pm

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