Academic journal article Boston College Law Review

Understanding "Sanctuary Cities"

Academic journal article Boston College Law Review

Understanding "Sanctuary Cities"

Article excerpt

Introduction

On July 26, 2017, Donald Trump announced before a crowd in Youngstown, Ohio that his administration was "launching a nationwide crackdown on sanctuary cities."1 In so doing, he was fulfilling a campaign promise to "end" sanctuary cities and pressure them to abandon their sanctuary policies by threatening to withhold federal funding.2 Although President Trump's definition of "sanctuary jurisdictions" has been imprecise, he has generally used the term to refer to those local jurisdictions that choose not to cooperate with federal deportation efforts.3 Trump's aim was and continues to be to punish those localities that do not help carry out his plans for mass deportation.

This Article-which is a collaboration among law professors specializing in the intersection between immigration and criminal law and enforcement-engages the growing national debate on so-called "sanctuary cities."4 We sought one another out for this multi-author project in order to promote a deeper understanding of the struggle between restrictive federal immigration policymaking and local criminal justice priorities. In this Article, we analyze sanctuary policies that seek to disentangle federal immigration enforcement from local criminal justice systems.5 Our overarching goal is to understand what jurisdictions are doing vis-a-vis criminal justice disentanglement and the rationales that support such initiatives.

Our Article makes three primary contributions to the literature on sanctuary cities.6 First, we identify the elements of the enforcement apparatus the Trump administration is using to conduct mass deportations and attack sanctuary cities. Although the Obama administration deported large numbers of immigrants and significantly increased the use of immigration detention,7 it was eventually forced to adopt reforms that had the effect of reducing local law enforcement participation in federal immigration enforcement. These reforms are now being rolled back by a current administration that appears intent on setting new enforcement records,8 in large part by co-opting the bureaucracy of local criminal justice systems. These mechanisms include actions such as accessing local jails to arrest immigrants, asking local jurisdictions to hold immigrants for deportation purposes, and deputizing local police to enforce immigration law. Our overview reveals a key insight crucial to understanding the current sanctuary debate: The debate over sanctuary cities, although more pronounced in the age of Trump, has history and roots that extend further back in time to transformations in immigration and criminal justice policy dating to the 1980s. One cannot understand sanctuary cities without understanding this history.

Second, based on our analysis of ordinances and policies from jurisdictions around the country, we provide a current typology of five major categories of sanctuary policies that the immigration enforcement programs and initiatives just described have inspired. The five policy types that have been adopted by jurisdictions to resist entanglement of state and local law enforcement in federal immigration enforcement include: (1) barring investigation of civil and criminal immigration violations by local law enforcement, (2) limiting compliance with immigration detainers and immigration warrants, (3) refusing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") access to local jails, (4) limiting local law enforcement's disclosure of sensitive information, and (5) precluding local participation in joint operations with federal immigration enforcement. Whereas some jurisdictions had these types of policies in place well before Trump was elected,9 many others adopted or reaffirmed such policies in the wake of the election. An important aspect of this component of our project is the compilation, in a public online library, of all the policies and laws that we considered in our re8 search.10 We recognize that the five types of measures we study complement other types of policies that localities may enact outside the criminal justice space to integrate immigrants into the broader social fabric of the community, such as policies that allow immigrants to receive in-state tuition or obtain driver's licenses. …

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