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Sanctuary! Sanctuary!

The election season of 2016 and the subsequent outcome have shined a bright light on the issues surrounding illegal immigration, specifically sanctuary cities. High-profile debates and intense media coverage introduced many Americans to the existence of certain areas that protect undocumented immigrants from deportation.

In truth, sanctuary cities have long been a controversial issue that dates back several decades. In 1979, Los Angeles police department instituted a policy forbidding officers from detaining people to find out their immigration status.

Today, a combination of 300 cities, counties and states has sanctuary policies mandated by law or practiced unofficially according to the Centre for Immigration Studies.

In addition to fierce disagreements over the legality of sanctuary cities, the definition alone lacks any consensus. However, common characteristics exist. Those include:

  • Protecting undocumented immigrants from deportation by limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities

  • Refusing to use city and state tax revenue to enforce federal immigration laws

  • Prohibiting local law enforcement from inquiring about an individual’s immigration status

Opponents have their own “Swords of Damocles” in the form of billions of dollars in federal and state funding for cities designated as sanctuary jurisdictions. Gov. Greg Abbott is part of that opposition. He recently announced his intent to cut financial support to sanctuary cities in Texas and pursue a state law banning them.

However, the murkiness of any formal definition will make it difficult to not only identify sanctuary cities, but also implement and enforce formal laws to stop their practices. 

If you are facing an uncertain future because of your legal status as an immigrant, contact an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney. 

Source: The Economist, What are sanctuary cities?, H.B.C, November 22, 2016. 

Dallas Morning News, Gov. Greg Abbott says he's cut money to Texas 'sanctuary cities,' but he hasn't, Brandi Grissom, November 29, 2016

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