Why 'sanctuary cities' divide 6th District candidates Roskam, Casten

The term "sanctuary city" is one that evokes strong opinions about immigration laws and how the nation should address people here without legal permission.

In the hotly contested race for the 6th U.S. Congressional District, the sanctuary city issue divides incumbent Republican Peter Roskam and Democratic challenger Sean Casten.

Roskam, who has held the seat since 2007, says he opposes sanctuary cities and does not want an "artificial barrier" created between local and federal law enforcement authorities over immigration rules.

Casten, a political newcomer challenging Roskam after winning a seven-way Democratic primary this spring, says he supports sanctuary cities because localities should not be mandated to help enforce federal immigration policies.

As the race nears the Nov. 6 election, voters in the 6th District are presented with two strongly differentiated candidates, whose views diverge on issues of taxation, health care, abortion, the environment and the actions of President Donald Trump, along with immigration policy and sanctuary cities.

Although there is no one legal definition, a sanctuary city typically refers to a place that has enacted policies friendly to immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. Some sanctuary cities, for example, limit the access of federal immigration authorities to jails, release inmates without giving immigration authorities a chance to further detain them or prohibit police from asking about immigration status during traffic stops.

Data from the nonpartisan Center for Immigration Studies shows Cook County is the only jurisdiction within the 6th District with a sanctuary-related policy. The county has a 2011 ordinance that requires a written agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to reimburse the costs of any immigrant the county detains on the agency's behalf.

Casten, 46, of Downers Grove, said policies like these could be a result of federal overreach by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement into local issues, which he said has created "a host of problems."

Among these problems, he said, is the potential decrease in reports of domestic violence or other crimes among immigrant communities when victims fear drawing attention to themselves could lead to deportation.

Casten said border-town police, domestic violence prevention agencies and emergency management personnel need to be able to do their jobs, "without saying, 'Oh, by the way, I also have this federal mandate ...'"

"Cities should be able to say they won't work with the government on immigration enforcement," Casten said during an endorsement interview with the Daily Herald. "When in doubt, defer to the wisdom of local communities and leaders to do what's right."

Roskam, 56, of Wheaton, takes the opposite stance. He said sanctuary cities or sanctuary states should not be allowed because they hinder cooperation and communication between the federal government and local law enforcement.

"I would submit that nothing good is going to come of that," Roskam said.

Locally, Roskam said he has been active with communities of immigrants in the 6th District, including refugee communities assisted by West suburban nonprofit organizations.

"We are a very popular place. People come from all over the world," Roskam said.

"This is a place that they have found to be their home, and we want those diaspora communities to be very active."

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