Policy doesn’t welcome immigrants, it protects criminals.

Sens. Ryan Aument (R-36), Scott Martin (R-13), & Chris Gebhard (R-48)

Lancaster City Council recently passed an ordinance to make Lancaster a “Welcoming City” and its implications should worry anyone who respects the rule of law, public safety, and common sense.

The ordinance would be pointless virtue signaling were it not for its real-life consequences. We’ll address those in a moment. For now, be assured, Lancaster was a welcoming place before City Council decided it would no longer follow the laws of this country.

Lancaster County has a rich history of welcoming legal immigrants, and we are widely known as the refugee capitol of the United States.

Our community has lawyers who are willing to provide immigrants with advice to obtaining legal citizenship; it has teachers who provide the children of undocumented immigrants with an education; it has first responders who don’t question the citizenship status of a person in harm’s way before answering a call for help or providing life-saving care.

In fact, we cannot recall any city service that has been denied to a resident due to their citizenship status.

But this ordinance isn’t merely unnecessary; it’s also unsafe.

Unfortunately, Lancaster County already suffers from a consistently and disproportionately high rate of human trafficking due to our strategic location along major highways on the east coast and our booming tourism industry. In fact, Lancaster County had the highest number of human trafficking offenses filed in the entire state from 2017 through 2021.

While local law enforcement has certainly set the gold standard for detecting and punishing those who commit this heinous crime within our county’s borders, the fact remains that human traffickers continue to flock to Lancaster County to do their vile work.

And we can expect those numbers to only get worse. Weak border security and lax immigration policies create an easy avenue for cartels to force more innocent people, including children, into human trafficking. In fact, about 72% of human trafficking victims are immigrants. As the American Civil Liberties Union explains, “immigrant women and children are particularly vulnerable to the deceptive and coercive tactics of traffickers because of their lower levels of education, inability to speak English, immigration status, and lack of familiarity with U.S. employment protections. Further, they are vulnerable because they often work in jobs that are hidden from the public view and unregulated by the government.”

Does City Council honestly think that flooding our communities with more trafficking victims – while simultaneously prohibiting our officers from obtaining and sharing the immigration status of their abusers with the proper federal authorities – will help put traffickers behind bars or return victims to safety? We certainly don’t think so. Prohibiting communication between law enforcement agencies will only benefit traffickers and serve to keep their victims enslaved and in danger.

Simply put, local municipalities shouldn’t be attempting to enact their own policies when it comes to immigration. It is a recipe for confusion and chaos.

A second worry about the new ordinance is its provenance.

It requires the city to maintain a minimum of “three-star” rating with Welcoming America, a Georgia-based organization that promotes ordinances of the type Lancaster City Council has enacted. The organization lays out a series of policy requirements that cities must meet in order to measure up to Welcoming America’s agenda.

Maintaining this three-star rating will only attract even more illegal immigrants into our community.

Nobody in Lancaster elected Welcoming America, nor was their role in shaping this ordinance explained. Welcoming America is a $3 million non-profit that pays its top executives six-figure salaries.

Its own literature indicates that it costs a community $9,000 to apply for certification. So it has a financial stake in the immigration debate and it is doubtful our citizens think law enforcement in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. should be guided by an unelected group in Decatur, Ga.

If Lancaster wants to welcome legal immigrants, we’re all for it. Few of us have names that originated on American soil. Americans are not defined by blood but by ideals.

Lancaster’s welcoming nature has a history as old as America itself. This welcome has always been based on the American values of humanity and respect for shared values defined by our laws. 

Most American immigrants know that. It’s time Lancaster City Council learned the same.

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