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Sanctuary city

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Not to be confused with Cities of Refuge.

A sanctuary city is a city in the United States or Canada that has adopted a policy of protecting undocumented immigrants by not prosecuting them solely for violating federal immigration laws in the country in which they are now living illegally. Such a policy can be set out expressly in a law (de jure) or observed only in practice (de facto). The term applies generally to cities that do not use municipal funds or resources to enforce national immigration laws, and usually forbid police or municipal employees to inquire about a person's immigration status. The designation has no precise legal meaning.[1]

In the United Kingdom, a “City of Sanctuary” is a city that provides services, such as housing and education to “asylum seekers”, illegal immigrants who are seeking formal refugee status.[2] Glasgow is a noted City of Sanctuary.[3][4]


United States

Local governments in certain cities in the United States began designating themselves as sanctuary cities during the 1980s.[5][6] However, the term "sanctuary city" is often used incorrectly to describe trust acts or community policing policies that limit entanglement between local police and federal immigration authorities.[7] The policy was first initiated in 1979 in Los Angeles, to prevent police from inquiring about the immigration status of arrestees. The internal policy, "Special Order 40", states: "Officers shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person. Officers shall not arrest nor book persons for violation of title 8, section 1325 of the United States Immigration code (Illegal Entry)."[8] These cities have adopted "sanctuary" ordinances banning city employees and police officers from asking people about their immigration status.[9][10]

The 39 American cities are:

New York
New Jersey
New Mexico

Electoral politics

This issue entered presidential politics in the race for the Republican Party presidential nomination in 2008. Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo ran on an anti-illegal immigration platform and specifically attacked sanctuary cities. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney accused former mayor Rudy Giuliani of running New York City as a sanctuary city.[14] Giuliani's campaign responded saying that Romney ran a sanctuary Governor's mansion, and that New York City is not a "haven" for undocumented immigrants.[14]

After the murder of a restaurant waitress in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in late June 2009 that was suspected to be perpetrated by three undocumented immigrants (one of whom was not deported despite being arrested for two prior DUI incidents), then mayoral candidate Richard J. Berry decried the city's sanctuary city policy. He also vowed, if elected, to repeal the policy that has been continued by the incumbent mayor, Martin Chávez.[15]

Following the shooting death of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco (a sanctuary city) by an undocumented immigrant, Hillary Clinton told CNN on 8 July 2015: "The city made a mistake, not to deport someone that the federal government strongly felt should be deported. I have absolutely no support for a city that ignores the strong evidence that should be acted on."[16] The following day, her campaign stated: "Hillary Clinton believes that sanctuary cities can help further public safety, and she has defended those policies going back years."[17]

Political action

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 addressed the relationship between the federal government and local governments. Minor crimes, such as shoplifting, became grounds for possible deportation.[18] Additionally, the legislation outlawed cities' bans against municipal workers' reporting persons' immigration status to federal authorities.[19]

Section 287(g) makes it possible for state and local law enforcement personnel to enter into agreements with the federal government to be trained in immigration enforcement and, subsequent to such training, to enforce immigration law. However, it provides no general power for immigration enforcement by state and local authorities.[20] This provision was implemented by local and state authorities in five states, California, Arizona, Alabama, Florida and North Carolina by the end of 2006.[21] On June 16, 2007 the United States House of Representatives passed an amendment to a United States Department of Homeland Security spending bill that would withhold federal emergency services funds from sanctuary cities. Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) was the sponsor of this amendment. 50 Democrats joined Republicans to support the amendment. The amendment would have to pass the United States Senate to become effective.[22]

In 2007, Republican representatives introduced legislation targeting sanctuary cities. Reps. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif., Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla., Thelma Drake, R-Va., Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Tom Tancredo introduced the bill. The legislation would make undocumented immigrant status a felony, instead of a civil offense. Also, the bill targets sanctuary cities by withholding up to 50 percent of Department of Homeland Security funds from the cities.[23]

On September 5, 2007, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told a House committee that he certainly wouldn't tolerate interference by sanctuary cities that would block his "Basic Pilot Program" that requires employers to validate the legal status of their workers. "We're exploring our legal options. I intend to take as vigorous legal action as the law allows to prevent that from happening, prevent that kind of interference."[24][25] On May 5, 2009, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed a bill into law that prohibited sanctuary city policies in the state of Georgia.[26]

On June 5, 2009, the Tennessee state House passed a bill banning the implementation of sanctuary city policies within the state of Tennessee.[27]

In June 2011, Texas Governor Rick Perry proposed legislation to ban sanctuary cities, SB 9, to the Special Session agenda for the State Legislature.[28] Public hearings on the sanctuary cities legislation were held before the Texas Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee on June 13, 2011.[29]

President-elect Donald Trump has promised to cut all federal funding for Sanctuary Cities on his first day in office.[30]


According to one study, sanctuary policy itself has no statistically meaningful effect on crime.[31]


In Canada, Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, have declared themselves sanctuary cities since 2014.[32][33]

United Kingdom and Ireland

In the United Kingdom and Ireland, a “City of Sanctuary” or “Places of Sanctuary”, is a city that provides services, such as housing, education, and cultural integration, to asylum seekers (i.e. persons fleeing one country and seeking protection in another).[34] The movement began in Sheffield in the north of England in 2005. It was motivated by a national policy adopted in 1999 to disperse asylum seekers to different towns and cities in the UK. In 2009, the city council of Sheffield drew up a manifesto outlining key areas of concern and 100 supporting organizations signed on.[35]

A “City of Sanctuary” is not necessarily a formal governmental designation. The organization “City of Sanctuary” encourages local grass roots groups throughout the UK and Ireland to build a culture of hospitality towards asylum seekers.[36]

Glasgow is a noted City of Sanctuary in Scotland. In 2000 the city council accepted their first asylum seekers relocated by the Home Office. The Home Office provided funding to support asylum seekers but would also forcibly deport them ("removal siezures") if it was determined they could not stay in the UK. As of 2010 Glasgow had accepted 22,000 asylum seekers from 75 different nations. In 2007 local residents upset by the human impact of removal siezures, organized watches to warn asylum seekers when Home Office vans were in the neighborhood. They also organized protests and vigils which led to the ending of the removal seizures. [37][38]

See also


  1. ^ Fimrite, Peter (2007-04-23). "Newsom says S.F. won't help with raids". SFGate. 
  2. ^ Marishka Van Steenbergen, “City of Sanctuary concern for welfare of asylum seekers as housing contract goes to private security firm”, The Guardian, 10 May 2012
  3. ^ Vivienne Nicoll, “City offering sanctuary to refugees from Syria”, Evening Times, 25 Augst 2014
  4. ^ Adam Forrest “Sanctuary City”, The Big Issue, June 2010
  5. ^ Mancina, Peter (2016). In the Spirit of Sanctuary: Sanctuary City Policy Advocacy and the Production of Sanctuary-Power in San Francisco, California (PDF). Nashville: Vanderbilt University Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 
  6. ^ Mancina, Peter (2012). "The Birth of a Sanctuary City: A History of Governmental Sanctuary in San Francisco". In Lippert, Randy; Rehaag, Sean. Sanctuary Practices in International Perspectives: Migration, Citizenship, and Social Movements. New York: Routledge. pp. 205–18. ISBN 978-0-415-67346-4. 
  7. ^ ""Sanctuary Cities," Trust Acts, and Community Policing Explained". American Immigration Council. Retrieved 2016-10-28. 
  8. ^ "Spec40orig". Retrieved 21 July 2015. 
  9. ^ "Sanctuary Cities, USA". Ohio Jobs & Justice Political Action Committee. Salvi Communications. 
  10. ^ "'Sanctuary Cities' Embrace Undocumented Immigrants – Human Events". Human Events. Retrieved 21 July 2015. 
  11. ^ City Policy Concerning Aliens (PDF), 1989 – via 
  12. ^ Terrence T. McDonald, The Jersey Journal, November 23, 2016, (via), Jersey City will protect immigrants from 'hate and prejudice,' councilman says, Retrieved November 24, 2016
  13. ^ "The Politics of Refuge: Sanctuary Cities, Crime, and Undocumented Immigration" (PDF). Prof. Loren Collingwood, University of California, Riverside. 2016. , Retrieved November 29, 2016
  14. ^ a b Tapper, Jake; Claiborne, Ron (2007-08-08). "Romney: Giuliani's NYC 'Sanctuary' for undocumented Immigrants". ABC News. 
  15. ^ Albuquerque News Archived July 31, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ Eric Bradner, CNN (7 July 2015). "Clinton: 'People should and do trust me' -". CNN. Retrieved 21 July 2015. 
  17. ^ Suzanne Gamboa. "Clinton Campaign: Sanctuary Cities Can Help Public Safety". NBC News. Retrieved 21 July 2015. 
  18. ^ Johnson, Dawn Marie (2001). "LEGISLATIVE REFORM: The AEDPA and the IIRIRA: Treating Misdemeanors as Felonies for Immigration Purposes". Journal of Legislation. 27: 477. 
  19. ^ Brownstein, Ron (August 22, 2007). "'Sanctuary' as battleground". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on May 21, 2011. 
  20. ^ IIRIRA 287(g)
  21. ^ Katie Zezima, Massachusetts Set for Its Officers to Enforce Immigration Law The New York Times, December 13, 2006
  22. ^ "House Passes Tancredo Immigration Amendment". PBS. June 20, 2007. 
  23. ^ Moscoso, Eunice (September 18, 2007). "Legislation introduced to make illegal presence a felony; punish "sanctuary cities"". Austin American-Statesman. 
  24. ^ Hudson, Audrey (September 6, 2007). "Chertoff warns meddling 'sanctuary cities'". The Washington Times. Retrieved May 26, 2011. 
  25. ^ "Holding the Department of Homeland Security Responsible for Security Gaps". US House of Representatives. September 5, 2007. Retrieved May 26, 2011. 
  26. ^ "Georgia Outlaws 'Sanctuary Cities'". Retrieved 21 July 2015. 
  27. ^ "House Passes Bill Prohibiting Immigrant Sanctuary Cities" (June 05, 2009) The Chattanoogan.asp
  28. ^ "Perry adds sanctuary cities to special session" (June 7, 2011) Houston Chronicle
  29. ^ "Texas Legislature Online – Upcoming Senate Committee Meetings". Retrieved 21 July 2015. 
  30. ^ Sprunt, Barbara (November 9, 2016). "Here Is What Donald Trump Wants To Do In His First 100 Days". ,
  31. ^ "Sanctuary cities do not experience an increase in crime". Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-10-03. 
  32. ^ Van Dongen, Matthew (February 12, 2014). "Hamilton tary city' for newcomers who fear deportation". The Hamilton Spectator. 
  33. ^ Nursall, Kim (February 12, 2014). "Hamilton declares itself 'sanctuary city' for undocumented immigrants". Toronto Star. 
  34. ^ Marishka Van Steenbergen, “City of Sanctuary concern for welfare of asylum seekers as housing contract goes to private security firm”, The Guardian, 10 May 2012
  35. ^ John Darling, Craig Barnett, Sarah Eldridge “City of Sanctuary – a UK initiative for hospitality”, Forced Migration Review, 9 October 2016
  36. ^ “About City of Sanctuary”, City of
  37. ^ Vivienne Nicoll, “City offering sanctuary to refugees from Syria”, Evening Times, 25 Augst 2014
  38. ^ Adam Forrest “Sanctuary City”, The Big Issue, June 2010

Further reading