The debate over the benefits versus the costs of illegal immigration has been met by radical and conflicting opinions from across all quarters. There is a school of thought that majorly believes that the costs of creating sanctuary cities outweigh their usefulness. On the other hand, there are a class economists that argue that the benefits of sustaining illegal immigrants can balance out the costs or that the costs to society are negligible compared to their benefits. However, the concept of sanctuary cities began in the 1970s with the aim of preventing the law enforcing agencies from investigating an individual’s identity. The wave has been intensified in Canada in the recent periods where the government is after protecting illegal immigration through enacting laws or instilling habits and practices that shelter and harbor immigrants in the country. Therefore, this argumentative essay seeks to analyze the significance, advantages, and disadvantages of sanctuary cities in Canada.
Canada has embraced the system of sanctuary cities to provide refuge for people from other countries. The establishment of the system enables the government to give the immigrants with a conducive environment while also offering them protection as they undertake various activities. Currently, there are more than 70 sanctuary cities in Canada that aim to avert the law enforcers or the police from probing residents their legal immigration status. In this way, sanctuary cities have proved efficient in minimizing the brutality of the law. This is quite critical because it enables the undocumented immigrants to claim rights because of their immense contribution to the urban communities; a large population of economists regards them as a source of labor that runs the cities. For instance, these groups of people often organize school meetings and participate in community forums besides their various contributions in civic and public discourses within Canadian cities.
These introduce the scale concern. Empirical studies suggest that it is not the nation but the city that should define a community. For instance, Benedict Anderson, an international scholar made an observation nearly three decades ago that national communities are “imagined.” In his submission, Anderson claimed that national communities consist of a large population and as a result, individuals cannot be able to know or interact with each other on a personal basis. However, people often intermingle within a city in various ways such as while commuting, shopping, working, attending concerts among other social undertakings that are capable of bringing individuals together. Therefore, he suggested that municipal scale should take center stage in the organization of political communities because urban membership outranks national citizenship.
Moreover, sanctuary cities focus on being the last bastion of safety for the undocumented immigrants who yearn to be free. These systems envision cities as democratic spaces that is all-inclusive and where individual’s opinion counts and they have a free will to participate in political discourse. The sanctuary cities by their very nature do not discriminate against some population as either more deserving or unwanted based on their immigration status. It espouses that all city residents belong to the city, independent of their national status.
Therefore, the section of people opposing the establishment of sanctuary cities in Canada reflects a people that are majorly struggling to strangle political inclusion and democracy, while the sanctuary cities stand apart as mitigating the influence of failed national policies. Whereas politicians and other pressure groups are challenging the very foundation of democracy, the cities are taking the bold step of defending the principles of inclusion and liberty within the local scale.
Sanctuaries promote social justice and equality. Besides being the last bastions of safety and providing an environment that enhances inclusion, sanctuary cities also focus on enabling equal access to municipal services without regard for an individual’s immigration status. This in effect is critical in ending the deeply entrenched divisive distinctions that characterize immigration status. In connection to alleviating inequality, it is also important for the opponents to recognize the undocumented workers as taxpayers. It is well-known that undocumented immigrants pay their taxes through HST in many ways such as paying rent, buying property or making purchases as well as through their income tax contributions since most of them often acquire citizens’ Social Insurance Numbers to be employed. Therefore, despite this group of people being denied services and benefits, they actively participate in underwriting the broader social system.
According to Bauda (2014), pegging rights and privileges on national citizenship provides the breeding ground for the modern feudalism where people divided into different classes based on their citizenship status. Although this argument focuses primarily on justice and equality, it also has far-reaching impact. For instance, the presence of exploitable undocumented immigrants offering labor reduces costs of production and hence costs of acquiring products and services.
However, despite the significance of sanctuary cities, some counter-arguments form the demerits of these safe havens for undocumented immigrants. One of the major criticisms for these cities is pegged on security issues concerning the proliferation of terrorism in the modern day and age. Those opposed to the idea of the creation of sanctuary cities validly argue that the aliens potentially threaten the Canadian national security. Besides, since the state does not document this group of people, most of them often pose crime-related threats to the government and the local citizens. It is also arguable that the presence of these cities is a source of pressure on the national resources as well as social amenities. With the upsurge in the number of undocumented immigrants, it becomes a challenge for the government to plan effectively thus making the available resources to become too little for all people within the national boundaries.
Moreover, the principal tenets for the existence of sanctuary cities are a public trust and public safety. These are the same reasons that have made the presence of these sanctuaries uncontroversial until recently. It is widely believed across the spectrum that creating sanctuary cities cannot deliver a permanent solution to the problem of undocumented immigrants. It can only be said that it is a reactive measure that seeks to cover up the failures of the government to address immigration crises. For a lasting solution to emerge, the government and its policymakers must consider having a real and challenging conversation that focuses on overhauling the immigration system, securing borders and establishing an elaborate scheme that spells out the persons eligible to enter and stay in Canada. However, in their current state and style of operation, sanctuary cities are legal but temporary measures. They are quite beneficial in the maintenance of public safety and are filling the void that emerged as a result of the longstanding incompetence of the Congress. However, building a lasting and sustainable solution to the problem of immigration crises, in the spirit of law and order, the government must embrace a comprehensive approach that will introduce far-reaching implications in the immigration system within the country.
Despite the successful establishment of sanctuary cities in Canada such as Toronto, the advocates for these cities long started to complain about the insufficiency of the approach. For instance, some reports have declared Toronto’s sanctuary city status a disappointment due to the integration and cooperation between the police and other law enforcing federal agencies. It is also not a virtue to estrange the local police from enforcement measures designed by the federal government. In fact, experts warn that undertaking such a step is likely to weaken the admirable consensus of Canada’s liberal immigration system.
In conclusion, sanctuary cities are a new concept in Canada. As a result, implementing them requires adequate time to enhance changing of the centuries’ old institutional cultures. Nonetheless, it is recognizable that change cannot happen in a vacuum. Therefore, there is a need for cities to outlay a concrete plan for allocating adequate resources and implementation. Besides, there is a need for intensive engagement with the locals to break down barriers and establish trust. Further, Canadian sanctuary cities must adopt case studies of San Francisco and New York, which issue municipal identity cards to the immigrants to enable them municipal access services. The authorities must recognize the growing sanctuary-city movements. Besides, Canada is known for its community and humanitarian values. However, goodwill alone cannot run sanctuary-city policies. The city councils must, therefore, put the necessary measures that will curb future challenges.