Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Closer Look At Sanctuary Cities

My hometown has recently begun considering whether or not to designate our city as a 'sanctuary city.' Considering the controversy this has raised, I decided to do some research on a topic I knew little about.

One thing is for sure: this is a confusing topic. There are remarkably contradictory studies quoted by equally passionate people, and there is a lot of dishonest reporting that distorts the facts (which is why both sides quote the same studies in some cases). I found more than one case where an article linking to a study totally misrepresented the study.

I will do my best to offer relevant facts, a variety of perspectives on how those facts are interpreted, and a summary of some issues that make the pursuit of truth and justice difficult but not impossible. I am not an expert. I'm just a guy wanting to find the truth.

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“Sanctuary city” is a term that is applied by some to cities in the United States or Canada that have policies designed to not prosecute illegal aliens. The term generally applies to cities that do not allow municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about an individual's immigration status.” 

  • "Policies or laws that limit the extent to which law enforcement will go to assist the federal government on immigration matters.
  • Policies that disregard requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold indefinitely immigrant inmates beyond their detention dates…
  • Policies that bar local police from asking for proof of citizenship and from arresting immigrants who lack documentation unless they are suspected of committing other criminal offenses."
Basically, local authorities in a sanctuary city will not try to track down illegal immigrants simply for being here illegally, and they will not donate time or resources to helping the federal government’s search. However, this does not mean what happens in that city happens in a law enforcement vacuum. 

When illegal immigrants are arrested and detained, their fingerprints are entered into a federal database that clarifies their status (and puts them on ICE's radar). ICE can ask local law enforcement to hold detainees who are here illegally, but they cannot require them to do so. Sanctuary cities still detain those they arrest by whatever standards they use for the crime, but not beyond what is warranted for the purposes of ICE. 

In addition, individual local law enforcement officers are free to tell the federal authorities information if they wish too. This right is protected by law.  In Chicago, which passed a sanctuary ordinance in 2012, “police can work with ICE to detain immigrants who have a pending felony prosecution or are listed in the police gang database.” Travis County, Texas, makes exceptions for murder, capital murder, aggravated sexual assault, and human trafficking.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword

I’m a big fan of the King Arthur legend. I read a lot about him when I was a kid; as a high school literature teacher, I forced juniors to read Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte D'arthur; I think I’ve seen all the modern movies and musicals. (Is it weird to have seen the Clive Owen version ten times at least? I’m asking for a friend).

So I wasn’t sure what to expect going in to Guy Ritchie’s recent incarnation of the tale. The critics’ reviews were generally bad (27% at Rotten Tomatoes), but the audience response was much more favorable (78%).  Was it the bombastic, frenetic desecration of a classic tale that borrowed heavily from Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones? Was it a highly entertaining and clever retelling of story never meant to have too tight of a connection to real history anyway?

Well, yes. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Alien: Covenant

Alien: Covenant, the next installment in Ridley Scott’s Alien universe, provides a passable filler narrative between the disappointing Prometheus and the classic original Alien movie. I say “passable” because my first thoughts when I left the theater were…well, not much, really.

Alien: Covenant is generally getting decent reviews (72% at Rotten Tomatoes), but I didn't think it broke any new ground cinematically or thematically. There just wasn’t much there that initially provoked deep thought. However, if I’m generous, I think the movie may have been trying to offer a story about origins, gods, and the power of creators. Yeah. Let's run with that.

Monday, May 15, 2017

"I Am Negan" (The Walking Dead, Season 7)

Season 7 of The Walking Dead had some ups and downs. Ratings were low, likely because of a combination of violence that was extreme even by TWD standards, the death of some crucial characters, and a sense of “same story, different setting.” However, the character development and the moral complexities remained. 

Season 7 featured a character named Negan, a dictatorial megalomaniac with a remarkable capacity for violence. One of the most chilling aspects of his cruel rule is how he forces all those who follow him to identify themselves as Neegan. “I am Negan” becomes a phrase that we dread. 

That chilling phrase keeps ringing in my head. There is something about it that captures the true horror of The Walking Dead: not the undead, but the living who had died inside long ago.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Guardians Of The Galaxy 2

Guardians Of The Galaxy has roared onto the screens as everyone expected. It’s big, beautiful, highly entertaining, and at times surprisingly moving. We can debate whether or not it’s as good as the first one, but one thing is for sure: there is something in this movie franchise that is drawing people in droves. Yes, it’s fun cinema, but I think it’s more than that.

First, it’s a movie about self-identified “a-holes” saving the universe. On the one hand, that bothers me. You’d think we could find somebody – anybody – who doesn’t fall into that category. On the other hand, maybe it’s just an honest acknowledgment that no one is righteous. For every Captain America, there are a thousand Peter Quills; that’s probably a good reflection of real world percentages. The movie is too flippant about the seriousness of many of the offenses of different characters in the movie, but it captures the messiness of human sinfulness mixed in with nobility and honor. Sometimes people end well even if they have not lived well.

Yondu is a great example. On the one hand, we find out that he bravely kept Peter hidden from his demi-god father, Ego, for all these years because he knew that Ego was a terrible man. On the other hand, he is a Ravager (read 'space pirate') who gets kicked out of the club for trafficking children (which he claims he didn't know). On the other hand, he eventually channels Boromir and does his best to atone for his failures.

I long for heroes who are brave, pure, good and true. In Guardians, you are not going to get the full list. There are no King Arthurs or Captain Americas. There are instead people like Peter Quill who, when offered good and bad, will choose to do a little of both. Such is life. I would like to see a story that shows a trend in the characters toward the good not just in their deeds but in their hearts; Guardians Of The Galaxy at least gets us to long for it.