The guts of it.
The sheer guts — hints of U.S. Sen. James L. Buckley 1975.
Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican assemblywoman representing parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island, urged the federal government Wednesday to withhold funding from New York City.
From her own city.
A call like that is politically unfathomable. Yet Malliotakis did it. And on National Public Radio, of all places, home to New York’s liberal intelligentsia. (Buckley, then New York’s junior senator, voted against the 1975 federal bailout of New York on the grounds that the city’s financial woes were recklessly self-inflicted.)
The issue for Malliotakis is sanctuary cities. A political land mine. Opposing New York City’s long-standing refusal to fully cooperate with federal enforcement of immigration laws may be the least popular stand one can take today in New York’s left-wing opinion echo chamber.
Malliotakis, the daughter of immigrants, is throwing caution to the wind. She argues that laws are laws. They must be followed. If you don’t like them, change them. The assemblywoman also cites terrorism concerns in the nation’s No. 1 target city.
Hardly radical stuff.
The sanctuary city issue is a scorcher nonetheless. President Donald Trump’s threat to cut off Justice Department funding to defiant municipalities is a major political rallying point for established political interest groups that dislike his agenda. It’s not a huge amount of money at stake — in the low millions here — but the showdown couldn’t be more emblematically consequential as Americans are forced to take sides on the soul-wrenching question of what to do with neighbors here illegally. (The Obama Justice Department briefly threatened cutting city funding in 2016 before pulling the measure back.)
Some will say dismissively that it’s easy for a Staten Island assembly member to take a pro-law-enforcement stand. It’s New York’s most conservative borough, with some of the city’s highest concentrations of law enforcement officers. Maybe so. But even Staten Island is teeming with immigrants, and more languages are spoken in the Brooklyn portion of Malliotakis’ district, Bay Ridge, than were probably ever spoken on Ellis Island.
Is it possible — just possible — that New York has in its midst an elected official with unqualified courage in her convictions?
Malliotakis’s stance is generating much public debate. No matter where you fall out on the sanctuary city issue, though, one thing is undeniable: she has guts.
William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant for Republicans.