You Should Know

You Should Know

What are Sanctuary Cities?

By Sara McElmurry and Juliana Kerr

On January 25 President Trump signed an executive order to strip federal funding from “Sanctuary Cities.” Over 300 cities and counties across the United States have passed sanctuary city ordinances. What are “Sanctuary Cities”? Here's what you should know.

“Sanctuary Cities” is an unofficial term for cities, counties, or states that limit cooperation with federal authorities to detain, hold, and deport unauthorized immigrants.

Sanctuary cities are not breaking the law. Local authorities are legally able to decide if they will honor federal “detainer” requests to hold or turn over unauthorized immigrants to the Department of Homeland Security.

Immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility. Sanctuary cities argue that limited resources and personnel should be allocated to addressing more serious local threats.

Some sheriffs also believe that detaining unauthorized immigrants destroys public trust, increases racial profiling, and makes unauthorized immigrants less likely to report crimes for fear of being deported.

Not all sanctuary cities are the same. Some limit US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's ability to interrogate individuals while in local custody, while others may provide legal aid for unauthorized residents or other services.

Critics worry that sanctuary cities are protecting dangerous criminals and risking public safety, but sanctuary cities still arrest and process unauthorized immigrants who commit serious crimes.

Studies show immigrants are less crime prone than the native-born population, and that crime is statistically significantly lower in sanctuary counties compared to nonsanctuary counties.

Programs such as Secure Communities have tried to improve federal and local cooperation to remove high-risk immigrants, but have had mixed reactions.

President Trump’s executive order to strip funding from sanctuary cities may further strain relationships between federal and local authorities in these cities.

Chicago, a sanctuary city since 1985, stands to lose $1.3 billion in federal aid―potential funds for anti-poverty efforts and law enforcement―but has vowed to remain a sanctuary city along with several others.

This is one of many examples of cities actively shaping policies of global significance.

Do you think it is possible to update laws to balance immigration, public safety, and national security priorities?

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To learn more about how US immigration policy contributes to national security, check out our
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© February 2017 Chicago Council on Global Affairs