Last week, Libby Schaaf, mayor of Oakland, took the logic of so-called sanctuary cities and states one step further by warning that Immigration and Customs Enforcement had planned a raid on immigrants in the country illegally. Over the weekend, roughly 150 immigrants were apprehended in Northern California.
Predictably, the backlash from Trump supporters, immigrant haters and ICE authorities has been intense. Was Schaaf impeding law enforcement? What was she thinking?
It was probably a good deal like what the leaders of pre-Civil War Northern cities and states were thinking when they resisted the federal government’s efforts to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act, which a Southern-dominated Congress had enacted in 1850.
In case you don’t remember your U.S. history: An 1842 court ruling absolved states of any duty to cooperate in the recapture of former slaves who’d freed themselves by fleeing to the North. In response, as part of the Compromise of 1850, the Congress passed and President Millard Fillmore signed the Fugitive Slave Act, which not only required state and local governmental officials to aid owners and their agents who’d come North to capture and re-enslave the runaways, but also required the same level of cooperation from all citizens. If a slaver was in the act of recapture, bystanders were required to help out.