Sanctuary Cities Pledge to Protect Immigrants

December 1, 2016

Photo by Justin Henry (CC BY 2.0)
Photo by Justin Henry (CC BY 2.0)

As a result of President-elect Trump announcing he will halt all federal funding to over 300 sanctuary cities and counties that refuse to comply with federal immigration laws, a handful of mayors pledged that they would continue to practice sanctuary-friendly policies. This struggle of power between federal, state, and local governments is expected to occur more frequently as a Trump administration enforces policies that local and state governments find objectionable.

In the 1980s, the Sanctuary Movement — a movement of various church congregations — sought to provide legal and humanitarian assistance to undocumented immigrants who fled civil war and violence in Central America. At the height of the Sanctuary Movement, over 1,000 local congregations — Jewish, Christian, Protestant, and Catholic — endorsed and practiced the concept of sanctuary.

Today, congregations including churches and synagogues are declaring themselves as sanctuaries for immigrants fleeing deportation. The new Sanctuary Movement includes over 100 congregations and houses of worships that provide legal and humanitarian assistance for undocumented immigrants. Thousands of supporters have signed petitions on behalf of the immigrants who have moved into sanctuary-friendly churches after receiving deportation orders.

The new Sanctuary Movement has reached college campuses. The California State University system has said it will not help federal immigration authorities under the Trump administration take steps that could lead to the deportation of undocumented students. The University of California system is considering sanctuary-friendly policies. In a press statement, Arizona State University President Michael Crow emphasized the university's "unchanged" commitment to undocumented students. As students across the country pressure their campuses to become places of refuge for undocumented students, college administrations should work with their students, faculty, and staff to see if sanctuary-status is a possibility for vulnerable student groups.

Local police departments in sanctuary cities like Los Angeles, Denver, and Newark have vowed not to report undocumented suspects to immigration officials unless there was a criminal conviction. Local governments and law enforcement agencies are even willing to forgo federal aid by remaining and declaring being a sanctuary city.

Trump has vowed to deport more undocumented immigrants during his presidency. At the local level, this should prompt more houses of worships across the country to become safe havens for those who have fled persecution for a safe haven in America.

Congregations can work to advocate for undocumented immigrants by becoming a sanctuary, connecting immigrants to legal aid, or pressuring lawmakers to support policies like DACA and DAPA which grant deferred action status — an immigration status which may indefinitely delay an immigrant's deportation — to undocumented people. Houses of worship have the opportunity to create partnerships with their local sanctuary cities and work together to provide protections for undocumented immigrants.

Over eleven million undocumented people live in the United States. Many of them work in construction, agriculture, service, health care, hotels, restaurants, and other critical industries. A study conducted by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy showed that undocumented immigrants contributed more than $12 billion in local, state, and federal taxes in 2012 alone. Congress narrowly passed the DREAM Act in 2010 but fell just five votes short in the Senate. The next Congress needs to prioritize similar legislation and work through the gridlock to finally pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.



View All


    No documents found.

Help us continue our work with a quick
one-time or monthly donation.