Lehigh County is not a “Sanctuary City”

Despite what you may have seen in a recent campaign mailer from the Glenn Eckart campaign. . . No, Lehigh County is not a “Sanctuary City”.

A sanctuary city is one that by virtue of different philosophical views of elected officials limits cooperation with federal efforts to enforce immigration laws. Or in the worse cases outright obstructs and stymies the work of immigrations and custom enforcement (ICE). Key being an unwillingness to cooperate based on philosophical differences. Sanctuary cities are a problem that needs to be addressed. Lehigh County however in no way, shape or form is a sanctuary city.

The County cooperates fully with ICE within the parameters of the law. (the US constitution) There is no activism taking place on the part of any county official to obstruct or otherwise hinder immigration enforcement. That includes the current Democratic Executive AND the Republican majority of the Board of Commissioners.

The problem arises when detaining individuals without a warrant, due process, or a judicial order. Here, the county has what they believe to be a legal (not philosophical) issue. Aside from (what should be) the obvious constitutional matter, a few years ago Lehigh County detained an (innocent) AMERICAN citizen at the request of ICE and subsequently was sued. That lawsuit cost county taxpayers $95,000 in a settlement agreement.

This problem is acknowledged by Sen. Pat Toomey. To that end he’s proposed a fix to put the feds, not localities, on the hook for detainees eliminating the potential for costly local lawsuits.  Toomey stated, “We need legislation to ensure local police are not subject to lawsuits for good-faith efforts to cooperate with federal law enforcement to remove dangerous criminals and terrorists from our streets,” That sort of lawsuit is exactly what happened in Lehigh County.

Again, in a sanctuary city elected officials object to US immigration policy and actively seek to undermine it. This is not the case in Lehigh County. What happened was the County detained an American citizen without due process and got sued for it. After that debacle they created a policy to avoid wasting more taxpayer dollars on lawsuits of the same type.

Lehigh County policy allows all 3 of these things to happen:
1.) Full good faith cooperation with federal immigration law.
2.) Constitutional due process observed
3.) Limiting the counties exposure to more lawsuits.

We don’t live in a society where an administration can make a phone call and have a suspect detained without due process. If the federal government wants to change the current practice then they need to change the law.

Certainly not helpful in this dialogue is a County Executive candidate muddling a complicated issue in an effort to score cheap political points. In Lehigh County, everyone supports the good faith effort cooperating to enforce immigration laws. Creating a wedge where none exists is opportunism.

I’m writing about this now because if your a registered Republican you may have gotten in the mail a campaign piece that attempts to paint Brad Osborne as “soft of illegal immigration”. This is very misleading and I hope above helps to clarify. There are real “sanctuaries cities” out there, but Lehigh County is not one.

In fact, almost every item on this mailer is purposely misleading or factually incorrect.

Garbage mailer.

Also no, Brad Osborne (or the entire board for that matter) did not undertake re-assessment for personal gain. That’s a silly thing to imply in the Eckhart hit job. What happened was in 2012 the County Board of Commissioners implemented the county’s first reassessment in more than two decades. It was at the time very long overdue.
Reassessments are done (and should be on a regular basis) to assign properties more accurate, updated values based on items like actual home sales. These values serve as the basis for real estate taxes. So it’s critical to get it right. If the process isn’t done on a regular basis values become unfair. Some people pay too much and some pay too little. When the County reassessed essentially taxes went down for 55% of homeowners. And unfortunately up for 45%. The fact of the matter is the entire effort is to find the real values. The system is not at all perfect. But it becomes much worse when reassessments aren’t performed for decades at a time.
Re-assessment should be a non-partisan no brainer. However, it’s important to point out the effort was led at the the time by ultra conservative Commissioner Scott Ott and supported by a conservative reform slate. There was bi-partisan support. The only wrangling that occurred was over when to do the exercise.
In conclusion the entire mailer is basically garbage and very disappointing. I wrote about why candidates feel the need to “go negative” yesterday here.