Communities

What Is A Sanctuary City Anyway? 

by Stacey Leasca Andre Grant

January 27, 2017

President Donald Trump recently signed a new executive order targeted squarely at sanctuary cities in the United States. 

“Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States. These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic,” the order read. 

Over the last 18 months, both on the campaign trail and now in office, Donald Trump has made it clear he wants to make major changes to the immigration system in the United States. It appears eliminating sanctuary cities is one of those changes. But what is a sanctuary city anyway, and how do they operate?

Los Angeles

What is a sanctuary city?

As CBS News succinctly defines, a sanctuary city, “offers safe harbor for undocumented immigrants who might otherwise be deported by federal immigration law enforcement officials.” Though there is no true definition of sanctuary cities, the term usually applies to “any municipality willing to defy federal immigration laws in order to protect undocumented immigrants,” ABC News reports. The very first sanctuary city, Miami-Dade County announced Friday that it will abandon the practice following the president’s signature on the executive order.

How are sanctuary cities funded?

Sanctuary status is a loose designation that some cities embrace and others back away from. For example, on KCRW Friday morning, Mayor Eric Garcetti stated that Los Angeles has never taken on the “sanctuary” tag, but that it would not violate their values for the president. As such, policies related to noncompliance with federal immigration law are funded through a number of avenues, depending on the budgets of the cities and counties that have populations of undocumented immigrants. These policies can be reversed at any time, as seen by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez bowing to federal pressure and ordering county jails to begin complying with federal detention edicts. He is the first mayor to do so.

Sanctuary cities nationwide.

Where are sanctuary cities?

According to the Center for Immigration Studies, there are around 300 “sanctuary jurisdictions” in the United States. Some entire states, such as California and Connecticut have policies that the federal government deem impedes their ability to enforce federal immigration law. These jurisdictions exist all over the country, and a few municipalities shift in both directions each year.

How will his executive order impact sanctuary cities?

This executive order is a direct threat to cities, counties, and states that President Trump deems are uncooperative with federal agencies enforcing federal law. He’s proposed to strip these jurisdictions of their federal funding if they do not comply with his administration’s immigration plans. But the laws are complex. It’s unclear if Mr. Trump can actually withhold funding in that way. It’s also hazy on where his policies fall on the spectrum of constitutional law.

How can the general public support sanctuary cities?

More important than ever, the public needs to call their local districts and share their disdain for these executive actions. It needs to be made clear that the public is behind these cities serving as sanctuaries. 

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What Is A Sanctuary City Anyway?