There are over 600 municipalities in the United States that refer to themselves as “sanctuary cities” (Herrera). A sanctuary city is “a city whose municipal laws tend to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation or prosecution, despite federal immigration law” (Bhatt). Although sanctuary cities have existed in the U.S. for decades, they’ve become an extremely polarizing topic in the political sphere in more recent years, largely due to Donald Trump placing a large emphasis on them during the 2016 election. On January 25, 2017, Donald Trump released an executive order that pulled funding from sanctuary cities if they failed to comply with federal law and created stricter immigration laws (The White House). In response, Seattle Met magazine dedicated the cover of their February 2017 issue to affirming Seattle’s dedication to its sanctuary status, and labelled the city as a diverse hub, welcome to all people. While many Americans embrace this position and advocate for the sanctuary movement, there are countless others, like Trump, that believe sanctuary cities hurt communities and lead to crime.
Political cartoonist A.F. Branco takes this stance in a 2016 political cartoon, titled The Chicago Way. This cartoon implies that Chicago is a “murder capital” due to illegal immigrants and its sanctuary policies. While these two mediated messages have different positions on the issue, they both use symbolism and powerful illustrations to target their audience and pull them in. In both mediated messages, the creators heavily use art and symbols to get their message across, and rely on the support of short phrases to make the connection between the design and the message. Seattle Met’s cover is bright, welcoming, and optimistic, aiming to give hope to its audience following the release of Executive Order 13768. Trump’s order encouraged sanctuary cities and states to enforce federal immigration laws, and Seattle Met’s main goal was to inform Seattle residents that nothing would change, and also encouraged its readers to get involved in resisting Trump’s agenda (The White House).
The top of the cover reads “This is Sanctuary City: Where the Constitution Matters, Diversity is Celebrated, and All Are Welcome.” This phrase is supported by the cover art, which depicts the Seattle skyline on a sunny blue day, with a sun rising over the top of the buildings. The rising sun carries strong symbolism, as it represents a new day, or a new era, of Seattle’s strength against the president. The usage of Seattle’s skyline creates a common sense of identity and community, reminding the audience that they must do what they can to defend their city, as most Seattle residents share similar values. In the center of the cover stands the Space Needle, with an American flag on top, suggesting that Seattle’s values of diversity and inclusion are American values that must be upheld despite federal ruling.
Many uphold the argument that sanctuary cities benefit and create strong communities, as undocumented immigrants will be more likely to report crime and work well with local governments if they don’t fear deportation (Bhatt). This directly aligns with the views presented by the Seattle Met, that cooperation creates a strong community. The tone of Branco’s cartoon The Chicago Way is a stark difference from the cheerful Seattle Met cover. The cartoon is set up in two sides. One side is a dark sky featuring a sign saying “Murder Capital USA”, and the other side is a brick wall, covered in gunshot holes and blood stains. In the middle of the image stands Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, looking tired, old, and worn down. The speech balloon above Rahm says “To all illegal immigrants afraid of Trump, you are welcome in Chicago.” Branco is pointing out the irony of Chicago’s relaxed immigration policies in relation to their “high” crime rates. Although many cities could’ve been featured in this cartoon, Branco likely chose Chicago because their government and policies have been repeatedly targeted by Trump and other conservative leaders. Thus, Branco’s audience might already have had a negative image of Chicago in their minds. Branco is quick to label the city as a murder capital, yet does so without using any statistics or evidence to substantiate such a large claim.
According to data collected from the FBI Crime Report in 2015, Chicago had the most murders of any major American city (478 that year), but was ranked 25th in the nation for murder rates (17.52 for 100 people) (FBI). One could make the argument that it is in fact a murder capital, however it cannot be forgotten that it is the the third largest American city, and a larger population breeds a larger number of crimes. The constitutionality of sanctuary cities is heavily debated, with some groups feeling as though they violate federal statutes, and others believing they comply. The cover of Seattle Met claims that sanctuary cities are constitutional, as the tagline reads “Where the Constitution Matters.” However, in The San Francisco Chronicle article 4 Voices: Are sanctuary cities good for the community?, House member John Culberson argues that sanctuary cities are defying 8 U.S.C. § 1373, which essentially states that cities and states can’t stop communication with the government about a resident’s citizenship status (Culberson). Branco’s cartoon doesn’t mention the constitutionality of sanctuary cities, but Branco would probably agree with Culberson’s view. Meanwhile, Raina Bhatt, a U.S. Court of Appeals law clerk, argues that sanctuary cities aren’t technically violating any federal laws and have been supported by several Supreme Court cases in the past (Bhatt).
Bhatt’s article “Pushing an End to Sanctuary Cities: Will it Happen?”, is a long analysis of the legality and controversy of sanctuary cities, and the effects new laws proposed by Trump could have on undocumented immigrants within them. Additionally, she mentions the is a growing debate over if states or the federal government should handle immigration. While Seattle Met’s readers would probably argue that it’s Seattle’s responsibility to keep residents safe, Branco would probably claim that Chicago and Illinois as a whole isn’t doing enough to protect citizens. A textualist view of the Constitution would argue that enforcing immigration laws and managing deportation is a federal power, since the Constitution gives the government the power to “establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization” (Bhatt). Functionalists, like immigration expert Cristina Rodriguez, believe that “managing immigrant movement is itself a state interest.” (Bhatt). Certain states, like as California and Washington, heavily rely on undocumented immigrants for labor and would see a decline in their economies if federal immigration officers took control (Bhatt).
In A.P. Branco’s cartoon, he asserts that much of Chicago’s crime and murder problems are due to undocumented immigrants and the failure of Chicago mayor Emanuel Rahm to attempt to deport them. This claim is in direct opposition with a study conducted by Michael T. Light for the American Society of Criminology titled Does Undocumented Immigration Increase Violent Crime? From an unbiased viewpoint, Light examined statistics from the past thirty years, and came to the conclusion that undocumented immigrants haven’t lead to an increase in crime, and actually might be responsible for a decrease in American crime rates. However, it makes sense that people like Branco have this belief, as crimes by undocumented immigrants are likely to get more coverage in the media. The 2015 murder of Kate Steinle by an undocumented immigrant in San Francisco is a prominent example, and is discussed by both Jeff Session and John Culberson in the San Francisco Chronicle previously mentioned (Sessions, Culberson). Steinle’s murder drew wide amounts of media attention and is often used by conservative politicians to demonstrate the danger undocumented residents pose to Americans (Bhatt).Both mediated messages attempt to target separate audiences, and do so using different frameworks.
To begin, Seattle Met is a print publication, distributed within the Seattle region. Although they have a website with accessible articles, their content isn’t as readily available as Branco’s, which is released online. Many of Branco’s cartoons have gone viral on social media platforms such as Twitter, therefore he is creating for a larger audience. Seattle Met is targeting Seattle residents, by appealing to their morals, or ethos, as residents of Seattle. The magazine wants the audience to get involved in the issue, as the cover reads “75 Ways to Make a Difference Right Now.” Therefore, they are especially appealing to liberals who are politically active and motivated to make a change in the community. The message benefits undocumented residents of Seattle, reminding them that they have a place in the community and also benefits the city as a whole by bringing the community closer together. It isolates Seattle’s conservative residents by not including them in the conversation, which could potentially lead to further polarization in the community between people of different political parties.While Seattle Met is geared towards an audience with a similar belief system, Branco’s cartoon could be geared towards conservatives and liberals alike. He’s appealing to a vulnerable audience, by using visuals of gunshots and blood-splattered walls, in addition to strong language to prove his point.
Branco probably intended to ignite some sort of fear in his audience by making them believe undocumented immigrants in sanctuary areas will only lead to higher risks of danger. While conservatives might’ve shared this view before seeing the cartoon, they would probably be even more rooted in their opinions after viewing it. Liberals might doubt their own beliefs if they see such a claim being made and call their support of sanctuary policies into question. In this sense, Branco’s cartoon could be considered the more effective of both messages because it reaches out to a larger audience and doesn’t disregard the views of any one group as the Seattle Met cover does with conservatives. Branco’s message could have a negative impact on Emanuel Rahm’s popularity by criticizing his policies and making him look foolish, which could in turn raise support for conservative immigration policies.
In conclusion, the Seattle Met and The Chicago Way have very opposing stances on the role sanctuary cities should have in American society, yet both rely on strong imagery and symbolism to get their messages across. The Seattle Met cover uses a hopeful, optimistic tone to target its regional, liberal-minded audience, while Branco’s cartoon utilizes graphic imagery and satire to appeal to a larger audience over the Internet. Both mediated messages are successful in making their message clear and concise, and do a good job at drawing in their audience.