George Wallace – Patron Saint of Sanctuary Cities

Somewhere, George Wallace is smiling. George Corley Wallace, four time governor of Alabama and three time presidential candidate was an early proponent of the logic that powers today’s “sanctuary” movement on behalf of criminals hiding in our cities.

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First elected governor in 1963, Wallace shared the belief of today’s “sanctuary” supporters that states, counties and cities ought to be able to pick and choose which federal laws they would obey. Like many prominent Democrats at the time, he was also an abject racist, so his objection was not to immigration laws but civil rights laws. The principle however is exactly the same.

For his first swearing in as governor, Wallace took the oath of office standing on the gold star marking the spot where Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president of the Confederate States of America. In his inaugural speech, Wallace said: “I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Millions of Democrats stood up and cheered, just as they do today when Wallace’s intellectual heirs proclaim “illegal immigration now, illegal immigration tomorrow, illegal immigration forever.”

George WallaceIn 1963, President John F. Kennedy ordered the U.S. Army’s 2nd Infantry Division from Ft. Benning, Georgia to help enforce the racial integration of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In a vain attempt to halt the enrollment of two black students Wallace stood in front of the main entrance doors at the University on June 11, 1963 to block their access. Millions of Democrats supported Wallace’s actions, just as they do today when his philosophical progeny stand in the entrance doors of jails across the country to prevent violent criminal illegal aliens from being turned over to ICE.

Wallace was following in the footsteps of another prominent racist Democrat, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus. In September 1957 Faubus became the symbol of Democrat racism when he used Arkansas National Guardsmen to block the enrollment of nine black students who had been ordered by a federal judge to desegregate Little Rock’s Central High School. President Dwight D. Eisenhower finally ordered federal troops to Little Rock to ensure the judge’s order was obeyed and to protect the students. Millions of Democrats were thrilled by Faubus’ actions, just as they are today when Faubus’ ideological scions seek to use local police and sheriffs to block enforcement of immigration law.

Both Faubus and Wallace were following in the footsteps of yet another racist Democrat, General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who founded the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan was founded largely as a means of fighting Republicans – specifically President Andrew Johnson’s attempt to have all federal laws, including the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution uniformly enforced throughout the country. Like today’s “sanctuary” proponents, the Klan wanted to be able to decide for themselves which laws to obey.

The point here isn’t that most Democrats are racists, though throughout our history most prominent racists have been Democrats. The point is that these racist Democrats used as justification exactly, precisely, sometimes word for word the same logic that their spiritual heirs use today in justifying “sanctuary” cities.

At its heart, the “sanctuary” credo says that if there is a Federal law we don’t like, we ought to be able to ignore it with impunity, with no threat of punishment from the Federal government. This anarchistic idea has appeared before in American politics and is known as the “nullification doctrine”, the ability to nullify laws not to our pleasing.

It surfaced in 1832 when South Carolina decided it could nullify trade tariffs enacted by Congress. It threatened to use its state militia to stop federal agents from collecting tariffs at its ports. In defense of the rule of law President Andrew Jackson stood his ground, threatening to send Federal troops to South Carolina and go there “to personally hang for treason” anyone guilty of armed resistance. The South Carolinians may not have seen the light but they did feel the heat. The crisis was resolved when Congress passed a slightly modified tariff with Jackson’s support.

Old Hickory’s official proclamation in reaction to South Carolina’s threat is remarkably relevant today.  He said that South Carolina’s stance “is founded on the strange position that any one State may not only declare an act of Congress void, but prohibit its execution – that they may do this consistently with the Constitution – that the true construction of that instrument permits a State to retain its place in the Union, and yet be bound by no other of its laws than those it may choose to consider as constitutional … to give the right of resisting laws of that description, coupled with the uncontrolled right to decide what laws deserve that character, is to give the power of resisting all laws.” (emphasis added).

If “sanctuary” proponents can pick and choose laws to disobey, ipso facto every other citizen has the same right. What do the liberals recommend the federal government do when Topeka declares itself a sanctuary city for the unborn and bans abortion? Or Bakersfield declares itself a sanctuary city for bazookas and rocket propelled grenades while refusing to enforce federal firearms law? Or Minot declares itself a sanctuary city for traditional marriage and refuses to recognize or allow any other marriages? Our liberals can’t have it both ways (sauce for the goose and all that), so their answer has to be “nothing.”

As much as I’d enjoy having a couple of rocket propelled grenades in my basement, “nothing” is not an answer that makes any sense. But if you enjoy watching heads explode ask a liberal the above questions regarding Topeka, Bakersfield and Minot. Ask them if they realize the vile, racist history of their philosophical position. Best do it quickly though. I am confident the Supreme Court will agree with Presidents Jackson and Trump that the position of our “sanctuary” proponents is indeed “strange.”

In the meantime, somewhere George Wallace is smiling.

Bill Saracino is a member of the Editorial Board of CA Political Review.


  1. Terrific article.

  2. Chinn Tutu says

    Excellent history for me or all of us? I am certain anyone with any logical thinking ability will see the truth. We did! that’s why Mr. Trump is our President.

  3. Demoncrats founded KKK and racism

  4. Dennis Johnson says

    Facts can be troublesome things. Thanks to Saracino for reminding us of the inconvenient facts about Democrat racism and the philosophy the sanctuary movement shares with those racists.

  5. True Teacher says

    Maybe we should have Topeka and Bakersfield type of sanctuary cities. We can blame that on the Left when we carve out our own liberty zones.

    Federal law can be just as oppressive and unconstitutional as any local action. The Supremacy Clause gives the federal government the power to intervene in localities where civil rights or liberties have been violated. But the same clause of the constitution also allows for centralized tyranny if you don’t have the judges to stop it. I cannot think of any time where either faction has been uniformly consistent when it comes to states’ rights versus the central government; the genesis of this tension goes back to the beginning.

    As my colleague said to me, liberals in this country don’t like states’ rights at all except: when they don’t control D.C. or when it comes to legalizing pot. Regarding education policy, the education progressives turned against Duncan, Emmanuel, and Obama when they joined the charter school cause. Now they hate the DOE. Yet, put Bernie Sanders in charge at DOE and they will crush states’ rights without blinking an eye.

    Are Republicans the same? It’s all about who has the power and where.

    Sanctuary cities are wrong if they harbor people who have broken the law; they are good if they protect the natural rights of patriotic Americans from the growing deep state swamp in DC.

  6. Ed Olson says

    All this is true…why hasn’t the national GOP pounded on the Bakersfield, Topeka, Minot points raised here!? They are powerful. Sadly, we continue to earn the label of the stupid Party.

  7. True Teacher says

    I apologize for my poor post earlier. This post says what I only wished I were smart enough to write:

  8. An excellent historical reminder. Is Jerry Brown a latent confederate?

  9. George Wallace actually renounced racism and segregationist politics after the assassination attempt that left him paralyzed in 1972. Many people forget that, however, and only remember him for the monster he was before that. Nonetheless, the support that Democrats have shown for nullification of federal immigration law should destroy the idea that the two parties “switched sides” once and for all.

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