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County Hall Corner: Who are the People in Your Neighborhood?

The website for the Center for Immigration Studies listed all sanctuary cities, counties, and states in the United States, updated on March 6, 2024. The site stated, “The sanctuary jurisdictions are listed below. These cities, counties, and states have laws, ordinances, regulations, resolutions, policies, or other practices that obstruct immigration enforcement and shield criminals from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

Pennsylvania has 67 counties, but only 14 were listed as sanctuary counties on this website — and Lycoming County was one of them. So, it was not surprising that the Lycoming County Commissioners Meeting on Thursday, March 7th, was packed, and the issue of sanctuary status was passionately discussed.

Since January, the new board of commissioners’ weekly meetings have generally lasted less than an hour. This one, however, went almost three hours, with the discussion of the sanctuary county status for an hour and a half alone. Commissioner President Scott Metzger tried to quickly put the issue to bed by emphasizing that Lycoming County was NOT AND NEVER WAS a “sanctuary county.” Sheriff Mark Lusk and Prison Warden Brad Shoemaker also spoke to verify that fact. They emphasized that the website that started this rumor was not affiliated with the federal government but rather was an independent organization that gleaned information, and in the case of Lycoming County, it was wrong information.

Despite these disclaimers, the 90-minute marathon was due to the adversarial attitude that was evidenced by the citizens who were challenging the commissioners as well as the sheriff and warden. There were claims of flights coming into the Williamsport Airport in the dead of night, motels packed with aliens, and numerous spotting of people who were definitely foreign in origin.

My heart went out to Commissioner Metzger, particularly, as he had spent countless hours in the preceding days contacting government bodies, local proprietors, and hotel/motel owners to deny or verify any influx of illegal aliens. It was like trying to find a black cat in a dark room that was not there.

When the commissioners were finally able to put the issue of being a sanctuary county to bed, there were still those who expressed concerns about the appearance of increased numbers of non-English speaking, likely foreign-born individuals in this area. Commissioner Mark Mussina, in particular, called out a woman who highlighted three such persons. When the woman began to push back at the questioning, Mussina openly questioned what exactly these individuals were doing that was wrong. The temperature in the room was rapidly getting warmer, and President Metzger quickly intervened to get back to the issue of removing Lycoming County from any and all lists of sanctuary counties.

Sadly, all this angst is a result of President Biden’s administration’s immigration policies concerning our southern border. President Trump’s policies had brought illegal immigration almost to a standstill. Biden opened the southern border indiscriminately, and since January 2021, there have been over 9.3 million illegal, or undocumented people coming into our country. (Which, by the way, is larger than the population of Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia combined!) Sadly, it has taken the death of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student who, while jogging, was abducted and killed by Jose Ibarra, an illegal immigrant who is also a career criminal, to bring a face to this ongoing national nightmare.

An irony in the whole scheme of things is that the United States really does need immigrants to supply the deficit of population growth that is necessary for a society to continue to thrive. China is a good example of bad practice. It has had decades of population control measures. It is now facing a very dark future in the 21st century with an older population and a disproportionate number of males vs females. Many Western European countries and the United States are in the same boat of not being able to sustain the economy without a continual younger generation in the queue. However, it should be obvious that open borders is not the way it should be done.

It is worth remembering that outside of our native Americans, we are all descendants of immigrants. Legal, and not indiscriminate, immigration helped build this country to what it is. The words on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty are still true, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”