In January 2017, President Trump issued an executive order stating the government would withhold federal funds from jurisdictions that “willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield” illegal immigrants from removal. This executive order responded to the growth of the sanctuary cities movement, referring to cities that use formal and informal policies to limit authorities collecting or sharing information about an individual’s immigration status. Policies may include officers not inquiring about immigration status during encounters or jails refusing to detain illegal immigrants beyond their scheduled release dates when ICE requests. Sanctuary policies have become the subject of controversy throughout the country as people debate whether they actually ensure or threaten public safety.
Advocates argue that sanctuary policies are essential to protect people. If local law enforcement agencies assist with detention and deportation, they could end up alienating immigrant communities and discouraging victims and witnesses from reporting crimes. Many police chiefs are vocal supporters of sanctuary policies, seeing their job as protecting their citizens rather than enforcing federal immigration laws.
Opponents, however, condemn sanctuary policies as obstructing federal efforts to control illegal immigration and permitting dangerous, undocumented criminals to go free. They argue that cooperation between local and federal officials is necessary to crack down on illegal immigration in the US and to ensure the safety of Americans.
This intense debate has been playing out in jurisdictions around the country.
- The LA Police Department has said that it will continue its policy of not allowing officers to stop people solely on their immigration status.
- The mayors of Chicago and San Francisco have both reaffirmed that their cities will always be sanctuaries for immigrants.
- Other jurisdictions, however, are trying to outlaw sanctuary policies. The Governor of Texas signed a bill on May 7, 2017 that banned sanctuary cities, because these policies are basically “harboring people who have committed dangerous crimes.” The bill prohibits cities from enacting laws that prevent officers from inquiring about the immigration status of those they detain and criminalizes failure to comply with federal immigration guidelines.
For the time being, Colorado seems to be falling more on the pro-sanctuary side. None of the county jails honor ICE detainer requests and lawmakers recently vetoed a bill that would have withheld state funds from sanctuary cities. A number of cities have declared themselves sanctuaries or instituted sanctuary policies. With that said, the debate and political turmoil around the country is unlikely to end soon and will continue to impact immigrant communities and the larger American public.