Keeping Track: Which Cities Are Defending Their Sanctuary Status?

By Zhaleh Afshar, Development & Communications Coordinator


Image by Joe Brusky/Flickr

More than a dozen cities that call themselves “sanctuary cities” stand in defiance of the Executive Order Donald Trump signed on Wednesday, January 25th , which would cut federal funds to sanctuary cities. In light of the Executive Order, many of these cities’ mayors have publicly vowed to legally protect their residents from intrusion or unfair targeting.

Specifically, Trump’s Executive Order gives the Department of Homeland Security the power to make any jurisdiction ineligible for federal funds if they do not comply with legal obligations to share immigration status or information with the INS or other Federal, State, or local government entities.

Although there is no official or legal definition of “sanctuary city,” the term broadly applies to jurisdictions that legally implement some kind of separation between Federal immigration law enforcement and local policing.

According to the Washington Post:

The definition of “sanctuary” varies significantly from place to place. Some cities and counties merely refuse detainer requests — which occur when the federal government asks a local community to hold an illegal immigrant already in its custody until federal officials can start deportation proceedings. Other communities instruct their local police not to ask about immigration status. And still others issue identification cards and driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and provide other services. The District and Chicago recently created legal-defense funds for illegal immigrants.

It should be noted that even in these “sanctuary cities,” any person, including an undocumented person suspected of committing a crime, can still be arrested by local police.

The cities that have stood against the Executive Order include:

  1. Austin, TX
  2. Boston, MA
  3. Cambridge, MA
  4. Chicago, IL
  5. Denver, CO
  6. Los Angeles, CA
  7. Minneapolis, MN
  8. Newark, NJ
  9. Oakland, CA
  10. Philadelphia, PA
  11. San Francisco, CA
  12. San Jose, CA
  13. St. Paul, MN
  14. New Haven, CT
  15. New York, NY
  16. Seattle, WA
  17. Somerville, MA
  18. Syracuse, NY
  19. Washington, D.C.

Some of the mayors who issued statements to maintain existing legal practices and bolster support for immigrants in their cities include:

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has vowed to fight the Executive Order calling it “unconstitutional,” while Washington Governor Jay Inslee called Trump’s executive orders on immigration mean-spirited and unnecessary.

Other jurisdictions have taken a more exploratory approach, though still with an eye towards preserving a welcoming atmosphere for all residents. Burlington, VT said they will look at the implications of the Executive Order so they can “study its policies surrounding individuals living in the country unlawfully and try to make sure they feel safe.” While Buffalo, NY does not call itself a “sanctuary city” but rather a “preferred refugee resettlement city,” the city vowed to continue to be a “welcoming city” for immigrants and refugees.

Meanwhile, some California school districts sent a message to their young students that they’d be welcomed regardless of the order. In recent months, some school districts voted to become “Safe Havens” so that all young scholars can continue to learn without fear or instability. ICE already considers schools and day care centers to be “sensitive sites,” but the largely symbolic message that the school districts are sending lets families and children know that their district does not want them to be targeted at school. These are some of the “Safe Haven” school districts:

  1. Alameda School District
  2. Los Angeles Unified School District
  3. Santa Rosa City Schools District
  4. Sacramento Unified School District

These are just some of the examples of cities, mayors, and school districts coming together to keep their jurisdictions welcoming and safe. We will be updating this post as we come to know of more.

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The Race to Democracy Blog is the news, analysis, and media center for the Center for Social Inclusion (CSI). CSI is a national policy strategy organization that works to transform structural inequity into structural fairness and inclusion. We work with community groups and national organizations to develop policy ideas, foster effective leadership, and develop communications tools for an opportunity-rich world in which we all will thrive.

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