Republicans now boost sanctuary cities — but for guns

Gun rights and sanctuary cities.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images, REUTERS, iStock)

Remember when Republicans hated sanctuary cities?

One of the first things Donald Trump did after becoming president was to go after those jurisdictions — usually run by Democrats — which officially declined to assist the federal government in its immigration crackdown, ordering that federal grants be withheld from local and state agencies following such policies. The courts eventually knocked down the administration challenge to California's law limiting cooperation with immigration authorities, ruling the feds cannot commandeer state officials to enforce laws they oppose. Still, Trump continued to rail against sanctuary cities throughout his presidency, even threatening at one point to withhold pandemic aid.

"If you're going to get aid to the cities and states for the kind of numbers you're talking about, billions of dollars, I don't think you should have sanctuary cities," he said in April 2020.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Trump is no longer in the White House. President Biden has repealed his predecessor's anti-sanctuary directives. And Republican attitudes about cooperating with the federal government have seemingly flipped too.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons (R) last weekend signed a bill prohibiting his state's law enforcement agencies from enforcing federal gun laws. (At least eight other states have passed similar laws this year.) In a Thursday letter to the Department of Justice, Parsons and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt specifically cited Biden's sanctuary cities policy in their defense.

"President Biden and the Department of Justice have decided to reward states and cities that refuse to cooperate with enforcing constitutional immigration laws that protect our citizens against foreign threats, but now they attack Missouri for refusing to cooperate with enforcing unconstitutional gun confiscation laws that put our citizens in danger and degrade their rights," the Missourians wrote. "You cannot have it both ways."

One can quibble with the pair's characterization of immigration and gun laws, but their bottom-line point — "You cannot have it both ways" — is probably fair. It also works in reverse: Having cited sanctuary cities in defense of guns, Republicans will be hard-pressed to make an honest argument against them next time the party controls the federal government. With Democrats in power, though, the GOP has suddenly remembered it is the party of federalism.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Joel Mathis

Joel Mathis is a freelance writer who lives in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife and son. He spent nine years as a syndicated columnist, co-writing the RedBlueAmerica column as the liberal half of a point-counterpoint duo. His honors include awards for best online commentary from the Online News Association and (twice) from the City and Regional Magazine Association.