The topic of sanctuary cities grabbed national attention following the death of a young woman in San Francisco. The man accused of her murder had previously been deported several times and had been convicted of multiple felonies. Much of the attention focused on San Francisco’s ordinance, which bans local officials from using city funds to enforce immigration laws or asking about individuals’ immigration status unless required by law or court order. In response to this tragic event, many GOP candidates in the presidential race urged for Congress to increase border security and punish so-called sanctuary cities.
Republicans in the Senate attempted to pass the “Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act,” which would target so-called “sanctuary cities,” and the House passed a similar measure this past July. The bill, which ultimately failed in a procedural vote in the Senate, attempted to limit federal funding available to local jurisdictions that do not fully comply with federal immigration law.
President Obama threatened to veto both the House and Senate bills and has argued for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Though the bill is unlikely to get the votes it needs to pass outright, it is expected that republican legislators will attempt to attach it to “must-pass” legislation.
What is a Sanctuary City?
There is actually no legal definition of a sanctuary city. Generally, it is understood to refer to jurisdictions that have laws or policies in place that limit the extent to which local law enforcement or government officials will cooperate or assist the federal government on immigration matters. These cities may choose to do this through ordinance, internal memo, or as an informal practice. However, the definition can vary a great deal from place to place and has become an increasingly divisive and loaded term.
To be clear, sanctuary policies or laws cannot prevent the federal government from enforcing immigration laws within any jurisdiction. Therefore, while law enforcement may decide not to ask about the immigration status of individuals or alert federal officials of the illegal status of individuals, it in no way limits the authority of the federal government from enforcing immigration laws.
The sanctuary movement began in the 1980s and was largely spearheaded by churches. Although the numbers vary, there are estimated to be over 200 sanctuary cities or counties in America today including major cities like Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. For undocumented immigrants, living in a sanctuary city could mean possibly avoiding the deportation of individuals who are long-time residents and are making valuable contributions to their communities. These individuals may also be more likely to report crimes to the police that may otherwise go unreported due to fear of deportation.
As the presidential election inches closer, the issue of sanctuary cities and immigration will continue to be hotly debated. What is less certain is whether there will be any kind of widespread changes given the political divide on the issue of immigration reform.
Learn More About Your Rights as an Immigrant in Georgia
If you have questions about your rights as an immigrant living in Georgia. the experienced Savannah immigration attorneys at 1Georgia Injury Lawyers, PLLC can help. Call us today to schedule a free case consultation.