A “sanctuary city” is a city that protects illegal immigrants from federal or state prosecution, either by expressly prohibiting or never requiring legal inquiries about immigration status. There are more than 300 sanctuary cities in the United States.
There have been many Republican attempts to prevent sanctuary cities. The latest is S. 3100, the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act, which would withhold certain federal grants from sanctuary cities. The bill was introduced last week on June 27 and made it past committee the next day. While it may receive a Senate vote, the White House has threatened to veto similar previous bills.
What supporters say
Many sanctuary cities have another, more controversial, practice to protect illegal immigrants convicted of crimes from being deported. An immigrant arrested for an unrelated crime, and then later determined to be in the country illegally, will often only be punished for the crime. They may serve jail time or pay a fine but they will not be not deported.
Many critics of sanctuary cities see this practice as dangerous, citing increasing violent crime rates in San Francisco since 2011. Bill sponsor Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)described a San Francisco murder committed by an illegal immigrant. The shooter had been in police custody three months earlier but was not deported due to sanctuary practices. Many feel that the murder represents a clear example of a death that would have been avoidable if not for the sanctuary city. (Proponents of sanctuary cities argue that the cities are just as safe, if not safer, than other cities.)
What opponents say
A 2015 Washington Post article presents a different picture on the effects of sanctuary cities. It argues that sanctuary cities were the solution to criticisms about inhumane treatment of immigrants and racial profiling. “Immigrant advocates said all of this deeply damaged already-limited police trust in immigrant communities, making people afraid to call police or provide information. That, these advocates argued, was the real threat to public safety.”
How to get involved
Support an advocacy group you agree with:
Stop sanctuary cities by supporting the Federation for American Immigration Reform
Protect sanctuary cities by supporting the American Immigration Council