Everything Explained
Everything Explained
What Are Sanctuary Cities?

What do San Francisco, Chicago, and Albany, NY have in common? They’re sanctuary cities – among hundreds of other U.S. cities, states, and counties that have declared their support for immigrant populations, often by limiting their cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement – otherwise known as ICE.

Safe havens to some, crime-infested danger zones to others – sanctuary cities have become the topic of heated partisan debate. Particularly since President Donald Trump took office, promising to strip them of funding.

“We will end the sanctuary cities that have resulted in so many needless deaths.” “We block the funding. No more funding.”

But the meaning of “sanctuary” is much more complex than leaders on both sides of the idle would have you believe.

This week, we break down complexities of sanctuary cities with WAMC Programming Intern – Anne Seefeldt.

The concept of sanctuary has been around since ancient times, but was popularized in the U.S. in the 1980s – when many churches sheltered Central American refugees from deportation.

Today, the designation “sanctuary” is not so simple. The term is widely misunderstood, and for good reason. It means different things in different places, and actually represents a complex interplay of local and federal law.

There is actually no concrete definition of what a sanctuary is. But Ayers names four of the most common elements of sanctuary jurisdictions. 

What can sanctuary mean?

  • Local jails not honoring detainer requests – in other words, holding people for extra time in jail at ICE’s written request.
  • Local police not asking about people’s immigration status or sharing their knowledge about non-citizens with federal officials.
  • Not allowing federal agents into local government buildings
  • Not deputizing local police to work directly alongside ICE

But it’s important to remember that these are not the only things that define sanctuary city. A jurisdiction can be called a sanctuary by doing much more, or much less for immigrant populations.


Additional Links:

Know your rights: https://www.nilc.org/get-involved/community-education-resources/know-your-rights/

Sanctuary Cities Explainer authored by Andrew Ayers: https://www.albanylaw.edu/centers/government-law-center/Immigration/Documents/Sanctuary%20Jurisdictions.pdf

List of counties with 287(g) ICE partnership agreements: https://www.ice.gov/287g

Lawsuits in which honoring ICE detainer requests without warrants was ruled to be illegal: https://www.ilrc.org/sites/default/files/resources/immig_detainer_legal_update-20180724.pdf

Information from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center: https://www.ilrc.org/sites/default/files/resources/rise_of_sanctuary-lg-20180201.pdf

Transcript from Albany Symposium on Sanctuary Cities moderated by Andrew Ayers: http://www.albanylawreview.org/Articles/vol81_2/679%20Sanctuary%20Cities%20Symposium%20Transcript%20FINAL.pdf



The concept of sanctuary has been around since ancient times, but was popularized in the U.S. in the 1980s,  when many churches sheltered Central American refugees from deportation.

Today, the designation “sanctuary” is not so simple. The term is widely misunderstood, and for good reason. It means different things in different places, and actually represents a complex interplay of local and federal law.  

It’s the kind of issue you need a lawyer to understand.

Today, we speak with a law expert based in Albany, New York

AYERS: My name is Andy Ayers, I’m director of the Government Law Center and an assistant professor of law at Albany Law School.

And later, we’ll speak with Mayor Narkewicz and Police Chief Jody Kasper of Northampton, Massachusetts.

But Professor Ayers will start us off.

SEEFELDT: So, on a very fundamental level, what are sanctuary cities?

AYERS: There is no agreed on definition of sanctuary cities. There is nothing in the law that defines that term. I would say there are several key elements. One of them is: if you’re a local or state government, do you detain people at the federal government’s request? Do you share information about non citizens with the federal government? Do you allow federal government agents to come into your jails or your government buildings? And one is do you affirmatively cooperate with federal investigations? Do you do joint investigations with ICE? So there’s a lot of different dimensions. And no single jurisdiction is purely a sanctuary in any of those categories. But since there’s no definition we can include anything that involves being nice to immigrants if we want.

So, let’s stop and emphasize that there is actually no concrete definition of what a sanctuary is. But Ayers names four elements we commonly see. Those are, number one: local governments not holding someone in jail for extra time when ICE requests it (with what’s called a detainer request), two: local police not asking people on the street whether or not they’re citizens, and not sharing their knowledge with federal immigration officials, three:  not letting ICE officials into government buildings without proper warrants, and number four: not deputizing local police to work directly for ICE. But it’s important to remember that these are not the only things that define sanctuary city. A jurisdiction can be called a sanctuary by doing much more, or much less. For a better understanding, Ayers delves deeper into one of the most important of those policies – the first one – not responding to ICE detainer requests.

AYERS: So.. a detainer request is something that comes from the federal government when you finish serving your criminal sentence, not at the beginning. It’s a way of saying: once someone has been convicted of a crime, sent to jail or prison and completed their term, ICE would like to potentially apprehend them. In other words have them turned over to custody. In fact, ICE only follows through on a relatively small percentage of detainer requests. So, if you’re an undocumented person who is serving time for a crime, and your detaining authority gets a detainer, nothing at all might come of it whether you’re in a sanctuary city or not. If you are in a sanctuary jurisdiction, your detaining authority will ignore the detainer request. If you’re in a non-sanctuary, they will presumably cooperate and turn you over to ICE.

Keep those detainer requests in mind – they’ll be important to understand later on. But first, we talk about the bounds of what local governments can and can’t control.

SEEFELDT: So, local officials not asking individual people for their immigration status and maybe not honoring ICE’s request to hold someone in jail longer than normal – are those policies that local governments can mandate of local officials? For example, might city police officers be barred by local law from asking someone about their immigration status, or holding someone until ICE can come pick them up?

AYERS: The litigation that we’re seeing right now between the federal government and cities like Chicago and NEw York is precisely on this question of what are the permissible bounds of these policies? So – the two areas that you identify are really the core of what we talk about when we talk about sanctuary. That is detention and information. And there’s a federal statute dealing with information sharing that says local jurisdictions cannot prohibit their officials from sharing information about immigration status. So, if i’m the mayor and I tell my police officers not to ask about immigration status, I’m not prohibiting them from sharing anything with ICE. I’m prohibiting them from learning about it. It seems pretty clear I would say, that doesn’t violate the federal law. In other words, you can adopt that policy. However, if you say ‘once you learn about someone’s immigration status, you may not share it with ICE,’ that directly contradicts the federal law.  But there have been successful arguments in several jurisdictions that that federal statute I’m talking about is unconstitutional

The bottom line is – a mayor can tell police officers not to ask people on the street for their citizenship status. But according to federal law, if they learn about someone’s immigration status one way or another, no mayor can legally prevent officers from sharing that info with ICE.

Here’s more on what local government’s can and can’t do:

AYERS: There are some things that are clear. You don’t have to deputize your officers to become ICE agents. That’s a program called 287(g). Rensselaer County has done that. You’re perfectly free to opt out of 287(g) and in fact very few jurisdictions across the U.S. – only a few dozen have done that.

To clarify – when he says only a few dozen have done that, he means only a few have decided to opt into 287(g). If you want to know what other jurisdictions have done it, there’s a link on the web page to ICE’s list https://www.ice.gov/287g. Okay, back to Ayers.

AYERS: Every jurisdiction is free to decline to cooperate in the sense of declining to use their own resources. That’s very clear. So, let’s say ICE is doing an investigation in your city, your police officers don’t want to help – that’s fine. That’s not controversial. And in fact, many jur that don’t call themselves sanctuaries don’t want to devote their own investigative resources to giving ICE a hand. That has nothing to do with immigration but scarce resources at the local level. So there are some clear things. There are also some things it’s clear you can’t do. If ICE shows up with a judicial warrant, you’re not free to deny them access. So it’s grey and it gets greyer, but no nobody gets to call themselves a pure sanctuary, nobody has to become an ICE deputy. At least on those ends of the spectrum we’re clear.

So, just to sum up what he’s saying – local governments are under no obligation to use their resources to help out in federal immigration efforts. But ultimately, there’s not much they can do to stop ICE from doing their job. But non-sanctuaries – if they want to – can have their officials work directly for ICE. That brings us back to 287(g).

SEEFELDT: Could you tell us while we’re on the subject just what exactly 287(g) is?

AYERS: 287(g) is a federal program under which local officials can become in effect agents of ICE. This gets around the problem I was describing before which is that federal officials can’t force local officials to implement a federal program, so by deputizing them they become federal officials. This is of course consensual. So what’s happened in Rensselaer County is the most common form of 287(g) where it’s the ICE officials in jail, not the road patrols but the jail officials who are in effect working for ICE which means they will share information about detainees as it comes to them. And the agreements are all available on ICE’s website. You can read them. Under those agreements, the local jurisdiction bears most of the cost of implementing these programs. However, there’s some reason to think this will help you get federal funding in other areas.

So 287(g) is a program for local governments – usually jail officials – to partner with ICE at their own expense. On the flip side, sanctuary governments who don’t want to assist ICE can refuse to help. But can they go as far as to shield people from deportation? Many people think so. Political commentator Tucker Carleson has said that “a sanctuary city by definition offers sanctuary to people who are here illegally.” That definition is widely accepted by the public. But how accurate is it? Here’s a legal perspective from Ayers:

AYERS: Well if the word sanctuary means that jurisdictions are protecting people from ICE custody it’s not true. Local jurisdictions don’t have that power. ICE agents are free to roam around sanctuary cities, they’re free to detain people in sanctuary cities, they’re free to follow people into public areas in sanctuary cities, and they do that. There are laws that say you can’t harbor an undocumented person. But that has a pretty specific meaning. That means trying to shield them individually from federal authorities. So, having someone staying in your basement so that they can evade federal immigration detention may well be a crime. That’s not what sanctuary cities are doing. Sanctuary cities are basically declining to use their own resources to get involved in federal immigration matters. The word “illegal” is also questionable in the sense that people who are here without authorization may in many cases have valid claims to remain here like asylum. So we law professors and a lot of other people avoid using the phrase illegal because it’s like saying someone is a murderer before they’ve been convicted.

Here, we butt up against another common confusion. Isn’t an undocumented immigrant the same thing as an illegal immigrant? According to law, being undocumented in the United States isn’t by itself a crime. Why? Well – there’s an important distinction between criminal and civil violations. Ayers explains this further.

AYERS: So, a certain number of people become undocumented every year. Two thirds of them become undocumented by overstaying a visa. Overstaying a visa is a civil violation, not a crime. Crossing the border without permission – the first time you do it is a misdemeanor the second time a felony. So, of course some undocumented people are criminals. Some cross in a way that is a crime. But not all. Local police don’t have the power to arrest you for a civil immigration violation. Or at least it’s certainly not clear that they do. So there might be a problem with that. In fact there have been cases in prior administrations where localities have taken it on themselves to try to enforce federal immigration law and that turns out to be legally problematic. That said, there are laws that say you can’t harbor an undocumented person. But that has a pretty specific meaning. That means trying to shield them individually from federal authorities. So, having someone staying in your basement so that they can evade federal immigration detention may well be a crime. That’s not what sanctuary cities are doing. Sanctuary cities are basically declining to use their own resources to get involved in federal immigration matters.

So to emphasize, the difference between civil and criminal violations is important for cities because immigration is largely a civil matter. And a big reason why cities become sanctuaries is that they don’t actually have the power or responsibility to enforce civil immigration cases – that’s the federal government’s job.

So far, Ayers has covered some basic policies of sanctuary cities, expanded on one of those policies – not honoring detainer requests, – and talked about rules sanctuary cities can impose without violating federal law. He’s explained 287(g) agreements – which are the very opposite of sanctuary – and the difference between civil and criminal – the reason that federal officials, not local governments, enforce immigration law.

Later, we’ll talk about the impact sanctuary cities can have. But first, a bit of history:

SEEFELDT: I’d like to delve into the history around modern immigration enforcement because people talk a lot about the 10th Amendment which gives state and local governments relative independence from federal jurisdiction, but as we’ve talked about, local officials today have become crucial players in federal immigration enforcement efforts – so much so that hundreds of cities have decided to create these policies to scale back their involvement with the federal government. Could you help us understand – from a historical perspective – how sanctuary policies have become so relevant?

AYERS: Yeah, there’s a complicated recent history there. So big picture, for the first 100 years of the republic, immigration enforcement was primarily done by states and localities. So in New York City there’s a beautiful fortress looking thing in Battery Park which is where New York State used to process immigrants. Before Ellis Island, which was federal, we had our own state inspectors. Now at that time, there were no systematic ways to exclude people. So what they were looking for was things like disease or poverty. And in the late 1800s as racist concerns about Asian immigration rose, federal immigration laws started being passed essentially to exclude those so called undesirable groups. Federal immigration laws changed a lot over the course of the twentieth century. But throughout the twentieth century we saw on the one hand localities that would try to take their own steps to enforce federal immigration law, and on the other hand localities that wanted to encourage immigration. Now, with federal enforcement you’ve seen swings back and forth between different administrations the Obama administration and the Clinton administration and the Bush administration all increased immigration enforcement. Obama was by advocates called the deporter in chief before Trump took over, because his emphasis on immigration enforcement was much heavier than his predecessors. But it was organized in the sense that Obama’s administration set priorities for focusing on people who had committed crimes – people who were perceived as dangerous. The Trump administration’s policy has been much more pervasive and so in the past, sanctuary policies did exist, they were important, but the current emphasis on reporting anyone who comes across ICE’s radar has made sanctuary jurisdictions a lot more relevant because if you were arrested for a minor street crime in the past, it wouldn’t have put you on ICE’s radar. So the fact that your fingerprints went to the FBI upon your arrest didn’t expose you to any meaningful risk. Now, sanctuary jurisdictions like New York City which do fingerprint people are seeing ICE show up at people’s doors upon arrests for minor offenses which makes their sanctuary status much more relevant. But of course since their fingerprints are going into the system, it makes the sanctuary status for that individual not very meaningful.

Let’s quickly recap – immigration used to be enforced by states. But in the 1800s efforts to systematically exclude whole groups of people caused immigration became more of a federal matter. Ellis Island was established. Federal crackdowns intensified under Clinton, Bush, and Obama. But while Obama put an emphasis on deporting criminals, the Trump administration prioritizes deportation of criminals and non-criminal undocumented immigrants alike.

Now that we’re up to speed, let’s talk current events. Shortly after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, he attempted to give federal immigration efforts a boost by executive order. That order threatened removal of funding from sanctuary cities, among other things. But it was blocked by a federal judge in November 2017. I asked Ayers how the Trump administration been moving forward in their efforts to defund sanctuary cities since that executive order was blocked.

AYERS: When Trump was first elected, it sounded as though his plan was to block all funding of any kind that flows from the federal government to jurisdictions that were identified as sanctuaries That ran into several problems: one of them is that it’s very difficult to agree on what constitutes a sanctuary jurisdiction. And there were several jurisdictions that were alarmed to discover that they were called sanctuary cities even though they had never called themselves that – simply because they weren’t honoring detainers because they thought it was illegal to honor them. And there is ample court authority that suggests that it may be illegal to detain someone at ICE’s request when they’ve finished their criminal sentence.

A quick side note: here we tap into a complexity of the detainer requests that Ayers defined earlier. Many cities – even ones that don’t call themselves sanctuaries – have policies of denying the ICE detainer requests when they come through without a legal warrant attached. Why? Because they think it’s illegal. And many court cases have ruled that it is illegal – that the warrent-less detainers amount to arrest without probable cause. More on that in a bit. But first, back to President Trump and defunding sanctuaries.

So the Trump administration abandoned the idea of cutting off all federal funding and focused on cutting off streams streams that relate to criminal justice. And the idea was, well these funding streams relate to law enforcement so sanctuary jurisdictions are messing up a certain kind of law enforcement so that’s the stream we’ll focus on. The court reaction to that has been largely to say that the executive branch of the federal government lacks the power to impose that kind of condition on a federal funding stream these funding streams are authorized by congress, congress sets the terms, and since those grants by and large are not conditioned on immigration related conditions, the federal government without congress’s approval doesn’t have the power to cut them off.  

Here’s an update: on Wednesday August 1st, 2018 a federal appeals court ruled the president’s early attempt to cut funding from sanctuary cities to be illegal. But Ayers says that there are other ways the federal government can pressure sanctuary jurisdictions.

I used to work for a judge who presided over a trial court in New York City. And when people would bring him disputes they would say “Judge, you can’t make me do X.” And he would say, “I can’t, but I can make you wish you had.” With the federal government and sanctuary funding, one of my concerns would be if I was in a local government. Okay so right now, the government can’t punish me for being a sanctuary jurisdiction under this court order. But are there other things they can do to make my life very, very unhappy? We’ve seen immigration related threats from the federal government saying that we’re going to conduct more raids in sanctuary jurisdictions – and that’s explained not in terms of retaliation but in terms of the need for more enforcement in someplace that is a sanctuary. With the exception of one ICE official in Texas who briefly said on the record and then retracted ‘yeah, we’re going to get the sanctuary jurisdictions.’

SEEFELDT: What are the limitations of sanctuary cities in terms of protecting the rights of undocumented immigrants? And in what ways can sanctuary city status actually put undocumented immigrants in more danger?

AYERS: Oh that’s interesting. Well, in terms of the limits – I would say, if you’re thinking about detention – sanctuary jurisdictions can decline to detain someone for that period right at the end of their criminal sentence. But of course ICE is free to figure out where they’re detained and to be waiting for them when they get out. So local jurisdictions can’t protect people from being taken into immigration custody. In terms of information sharing, exchange of information between law enforcement agencies – state and federal – is something that happens every day. In terms of other areas of sanctuary, if I want to keep ICE agents out of my local jail or courthouse, there is no established legal procedure to do that. Which means that we continue to see arrests by ICE agents in courthouses, in state government buildings, in areas that are open to the public. It’s not clear that states and localities can close those areas. And what that means in the daily life of a non-citizen is going to an official looking building in a sanctuary jurisdiction may not be as safe as you would assume it would be. You asked if there are ways in which becoming a sanctuary can make it more dangerous for undocumented people in that jurisdiction, and I think there is a possibility that people can get the wrong idea. It takes a lot of lawyers a lot of time to figure out what the word sanctuary means. If you’re a person who is not fluent in English, and who is familiar with the general concept that you’re in a sanctuary jurisdiction, that may lead you to a false sense of security which may lead you to make bad decisions. So I think that’s certainly a risk.

SEEFELDT: Right, so it can be dangerous chiefly because the term can be very misleading.

AYERS: It’s misleading to even the most knowledgeable experts.

SEEFELDT: On the flip side, how can sanctuary city policies impact immigrant communities for the better?

AYERS: Well the theory behind sanctuary jurisdictions that we hear from a lot of officials who’ve chosen to adopt sanctuary policies is that they make it safer for people in those communities by encouraging people to come forward to law enforcement without a fear of immigration consequences. Say I’m a citizen. I may have relatives who are undocumented living with me. If I’m in a sanctuary jurisdiction, the idea is that I would feel more comfortable speaking to police without worrying that my relatives are going to be in jeopardy. The contrary argument of course is that: everybody who has committed a crime presents some risk of recidivism. And to the extent that sanctuary jurisdictions are refusing to take actions that would lead to their removal from a country, there’s further risk of those crimes being committed again inside the city that I live in.

[This is the main criticism of sanctuary jurisdictions. One reason they’re such a contentious issue on the news. It has to do with those detainer requests. The idea is that when local officials don’t comply with the detainers ICE sends, they risk re-releasing some people with criminal histories back into the community – where they could repeat crimes – instead of allowing them to be deported.

That argument gained momentum in 2015 after one tragic event.

O’REILLY: Hi I’m Bill O’Reilly, thanks for watching us tonight. The murder of Kate Steinle that’s the subject of this evening’s talking points memo. Thirty two year old Miss Steinle was murdered walking with her father in San Francisco allegedly by a criminal alien who had been deported five times and had seven felony convictions in the USA.

That man was Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez also known as Jose Inez Garcia Zarate. Garcia Zarate had been released by the San Francisco Police Department in defiance of an ICE detainer request. Under San Francisco’s sanctuary policy, local officials will honor ICE requests – that is –  if they’re backed by a criminal warrant, or an order signed by a judge. According to the White House “Detainers themselves establish probable cause of an alien’s removability and it would be absurd to require ICE to obtain a judicial warrant every time it detained an illegal alien.” But as I mentioned earlier, many jurisdictions have had lawsuits filed against them for improper arrests when they’ve honored the requests by themselves. And since ICE had not gone through the process of obtaining a judicial order for Garcia Zarate, the San Francisco police department released him. The details of Kate’s subsequent killing are unclear. But according to Garcia Zarate’s attorney, the shooting was accidental. The bullet is said to have ricocheted, and he was acquitted in November 2017. But the incident reinforced the pervasive notion that immigrants are dangerous, and that sanctuary politicians are putting American people at risk.

It became a rallying cry for President Donald Trump and other opponents of sanctuary cities.

TRUMP: “Kate’s death is a tragedy that was entirely preventable.” “Yet one more reason why Americans are so upset by sanctuary cities and open border politicians who shield criminal aliens from federal law enforcement and all of the problems involved with the whole concept of a sanctuary city. They’re no good.”

As you can see, Kate’s shooting brought to the foreground a fraught question – are sanctuary cities, specifically ones that don’t honor every ICE detainer request regardless of whether it has a warrant attached – stopping the prevention of some crimes? I asked Professor Ayers.

SEEFELDT: On the news, there has been a lot of partisan debate (as I’m sure you know) about whether sanctuary cities undermine public safety. Once sanctuary policies are in place, what affect to they have on the city as a whole? Are they less safe? And do the policies actually inhibit officials from catching dangerous criminals?

AYERS: Let me break apart two parts of what you said. In terms of immigrant criminality, there is good empirical evidence that non-citizen populations commit crimes at a somewhat lower rate than citizen populations. In terms of danger of people committing further crimes, it’s important to say as you did in the beginning of our conversation that sanctuary policies relate to civil issues rather than criminal ones. There are certainly people who’ve committed crimes who fall under those policies but the idea behind sanctuary policies is not that sanctuary jurisdictions will refuse to enforce criminal laws. In fact, another way in which sanctuary policies are limited is that even in so called sanctuaries almost across the board, are exceptions under which the jurisdiction will turn someone over to ICE if they’ve committed a crime of a certain level of severity. In New York city, there are about 170 different crimes for which they will make an exception and turn someone over to make sure that someone who has committed a crime of that severity is no longer part of the community.

Just to add on, Ayers says that there has been research into the question of whether or not sanctuary cities more or less dangerous. But there haven’t been broad, definitive conclusions one way or the other. Bottom line is – sanctuary cities still enforce criminal laws.

But the question remains –  should you as a local jail honor ICE detainer requests without judicial warrants? For New York City, the answer is no – ICE must have legal warrant out for someone’s detainment not only that – the person in question has to have committed a severe crime.

For the perspective of someone who has worked directly on this, I spoke to a sanctuary city mayor.

NARKEWICZ: My name is David Narkewicz and I’m the mayor of the city of Northampton Massachusetts.

Like New York City, part of Northampton’s sanctuary policy is not to honor any ICE detainer requests without judicial warrants. Here’s the mayor’s reason:

NARKEWICZ: The concern that we have and its been borne out in – actually in several courts across the country is that it’s a violation of people’s fourth amendment rights to detain them without a proper arrest or an arrest warrant. And actually our supreme judicial court in Massachusetts held that when that issue was sort of tested and taken to the SJC, that a detainer request is not an equivalent to an arrest or an arrestable offence.

In short, it’s been deemed illegal to hold someone for extra time in jail without a warrant. It’s just like an arrest without probable cause. So a local jail is doing it’s legal duty if it denies a warrantless detainer request and lets someone go (like the San Francisco PD released Garcia Zarate). But there is a chance they are releasing someone who is potentially dangerous back into the community. This is an argument against sanctuary cities that Professor Ayers mentioned earlier

AYERS: To the extent that sanctuary jurisdictions are refusing to take actions that would lead to their removal from a country, there’s further risk of those crimes being committed again inside the city that I live in.

But the mayor says that if in fact an undocumented immigrant with a serious offense in their background has been arrested (like Garcia Zarate in the Kate Stinle case), then all the more reason ICE should be pursuing the detainer request through the normal judicial process.  It’s ICE’s responsibility to obtain warrants for people with criminal backgrounds, so that cities can detain them legally.

Earlier, Ayers also told us the most commonly used argument in favor of sanctuary cities

AYERS: they make it safer for people in those communities by encouraging people to come forward to law enforcement without a fear of immigration consequences.

To learn more about the impact sanctuary policies can have on immigrant communities, I spoke to Northampton’s police chief.

KASPER: I’m Jody Kasper, Police Chief.

She says that in practice, you don’t always see more the effect of more trust.

KASPER: The hope is that Northampton is safer because there is a portion of the population who feels more comfortable coming to the police, who feels more comfortable tlaking to the police and reporting crime. That is the goal. That being said, I know that there is still fear from immigrant populations about approaching/talking to/cooperating with the police and I hear that from members of our immigrant community. That even though we are a sanctuary city, there is still that fear.

So, sanctuary policies don’t automatically bring about an atmosphere of trust. But she says that she needs people to feel comfortable coming to her police department and that acting on behalf of ICE would hamper her police department’s work.

By now, hopefully you have a sense of how truly complicated sanctuary cities are. There are many different policies, many debates, many misconceptions. Many things we don’t realize. For example – undocumented immigrants aren’t all illegal immigrants. Sanctuary cities aren’t always more safe for immigrant populations. Nor do they refuse to enforce criminal law. But on a basic level, remember that sanctuary has no definition – or at least – it’s different for different cities, states, and counties. If you don’t already know, have a look at what kind of policies there are in your locality.

To finish up, let’s hear what Professor Andrew Ayers has to say about the sanctuary policies in place in Albany, NY.

AYERS: The Albany policy relates primarily to information sharing, that says no city official shall share information with the federal government. This is precisely the kind of policy at issue in the ongoing litigation bit it essentially means that everybody in the city is supposed to not share information with ICE nor to cooperate with ICE. Although again on that issue of sharing resources with law enforcement I would question whether there are limits on that as well. If ICE (which has an investigative office) starts investigating a massive human trafficking ring in Albany, that’s a legitimate crime completely separate from any immigration consequences – and I wonder whether the  Albany police department would want to benefit from sharing information with ICE whatever information they both have.

Within this murky world of sanctuary city policies, Ayers says that the takeaway is that sanctuary is a spectrum from aggressive resistance to complete participation in federal enforcement of immigration law.  But that spectrum has limits, because even jurisdictions that want to aggressively resist federal enforcement can’t put a complete bubble over the noncitizens in their jurisdiction.

AYERS: Every jurisdiction is somewhere in the middle. Albany has certainly been vocal.


CREDITS: That was Professor Andrew Ayers of Albany Law School. You also heard from David Narkewitz, Mayor for the City of Northampton, Mass. and Northampton’s Police Chief Jody Kasper. This is Everything Explained – a podcast produced by WAMC Northeast Public Radio with assistance from Ashely Kinsey and our intern, Anne Seefeldt. We want to give a special thanks to Andrew Ayers, David Narkewitz, and Jody Kasper. I’m your host Patrick Garrett. As always, we want to remind you to subscribe and leave a review because it helps us to make more podcasts like this one.