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What Are So-Called “Sanctuary Cities”?

“Sanctuary cities” have gotten a lot of attention in the media these past few months. Not many people know much about them. So let’s take a moment to figure out what these cities actually are.

CNN points out that there is no actual legal definition for a sanctuary city, but it is generally agreed that any city or locality that takes measures, official or unofficial, to limit or not comply with federal immigration law enforcement would be considered a sanctuary city. The number of such cities that exists is unclear but the Washington Posts reported that at least 60 of the nation’s largest cities would fall into this category, including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Boston.

Supporters of such policies, which have been enacted through local ordinances, executive orders, and police orders, argue that it is the job of the federal government to enforce federal immigration laws and that local tax dollars should not be expended to assist in that enforcement. Additionally, local authorities argue that by not having local law enforcement officials enforcing federal immigration policies encourages undocumented immigrants to work with the police and report crimes that would otherwise go unreported out of fear of deportation.

Opponents of sanctuary policies argue that these policies only encourage further immigrants to come to the country without documentation because these cities offer a safe-haven. Recently, several bills have been introduced in Congress, by both Democrats and Republicans, that would either eliminate certain types of federal funding for cities that fail to cooperate with ICE immigration enforcement or would force localities to better cooperate with ICE’s immigration enforcement plans. The House of Representatives recently passed a bill banning sanctuary cities from receiving certain Justice Department grants.

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