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Sanctuary city is a term given to a city in the United States that follows certain practices that protect illegal immigrants. These practices can be by law (de jure) or they can be by habit (de facto). The term generally applies to cities that do not allow municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about one's immigration status. The designation has no legal meaning.[1]


History of sanctuary cities

Cities referred to as sanctuary cities

Cities in the United States began designating themselves as sanctuary cities during the 1980s.[1] The Policy was first initiated in 1979 in Los Angeles, to prevent police from inquiring about the immigration status of arrestees. The internal policy, "Special Order 40," states: "Officers shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person. Officers shall not arrest nor book persons for violation of title 8, section 1325 of the United States Immigration code (Illegal Entry)."[citation needed] Some of the 31 American cities are Washington, D.C.; New York City; Los Angeles; Chicago; San Francisco; Santa Ana; San Diego; Salt Lake City; Phoenix; Dallas; Houston; Austin; Detroit; Jersey City; Minneapolis; Miami; Denver; Baltimore; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; New Haven, Connecticut; and Portland, Maine. These cities have adopted "sanctuary" ordinances banning city employees and police officers from asking people about their immigration status.[2][3]


Political action

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 addressed the relationship between the federal government and local governments. Minor crimes, such as shoplifting, became grounds for possible deportation. [4] Additionally, the legislation outlawed cities' bans against municipal workers' reporting persons' immigration status to federal authorities. [5]

Section 287(g) makes it possible for state and local law enforcement personnel to enter into agreements with the federal government to be trained in immigration enforcement and, subsequent to such training, to enforce immigration law. However, it provides no general power for immigration enforcement by state and local authorities.[6] This provision was implemented by local and state authorities in five states, California, Arizona, Alabama, Florida and North Carolina by the end of 2006.[7] On June 16, 2007 the United States House of Representatives passed an amendment to a Department of Homeland Security spending bill that would withhold federal emergency services funds from sanctuary cities. Congressman Tom Tancredo (Republican-Colorado) was the sponsor of this amendment. 50 Democrats joined Republicans to support the amendment. The amendment would have to pass the United States Senate to become effective.[8]

In 2007, Republican Congresspersons introduced legislation targeting sanctuary cities.[9] Reps. Brian Bilbray, R-Cal., Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla., Thelma Drake, R-Va., Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Tom Tancredo, R-Colo introduced the bill. The legislation would make undocumented immigrant status a felony, instead of a civil offense. Also, the bill targets sanctuary cities by withholding up to 50 percent of Department of Homeland Security funds from the cities.[10]

On September 5, 2007 Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told a House committee that "I certainly wouldn't tolerate interference" by sanctuary cities that would block his "Basic Pilot Program" that requires employers to validate the legal status of their workers. "We're exploring our legal options. I intend to take as vigorous legal action as the law allows to prevent that from happening, prevent that kind of interference." [11] On may 5, 2009, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed a bill into law that prohibited sanctuary city policies in the state of Georgia.[12]

On June 5, 2009 the Tennessean state House passed a bill banning the implementation of sanctuary city policies within the state of Tennessee.[13]

Controversial incidents

  • In March 2008, Jamiel Shaw Jr., a high school athlete, was murdered in Los Angeles by Pedro Espinoza, an illegal alien gang member from MS 13, as he was walking home. It is believed that Espinoza mistook Shaw Jr. for a rival gang member. Espinoza's legal status was not checked even though he had been arrested for assault and was released a day before the murder according to Police Chief Officer William Bratton. [14] As a result of Jamiel Shaw Jr.'s death, a new ordinance is being proposed by family members that would allow police in the area to arrest suspected illegal alien gang members.[15] In May 2009, members of the Shaw family filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.[16]
  • In July 2008, a criminal gang member from MS 13 and illegal alien Edwin Ramos allegedly murdered Anthony Bologna and his two sons, Michael and Matthew, in broad daylight during a traffic altercation in San Francisco. Ramos was convicted of two felonies (including a gang-related assault of a young man aboard a bus and the attempted robbery of a pregnant woman) at the age of 17 years but was not reported to federal immigration authorities due to San Francisco's sanctuary city policy.[17][18] The city rejected any claims of liability and family members of the victims have filed a lawsuit as a result.[19]
  • In July 2008, a young woman was robbed and violently injured in San Francisco's wealthy Pacific Heights neighborhood by an illegal immigrant named Alexander Izaguirre. Before the incident, Izaguirre had pleaded guilty to selling cocaine in the city's Tenderloin neighborhood and was involved in previous purse-snatching crimes, but avoided jail due to his enrollment in a program called Back on Track, which is run by District Attorney Kamala Harris and provided training for jobs that Izaguirre could not legally hold. [20]
  • On July 31, 2008, 14-year-old Ivan Miranda was murdered and nearly decapitated in a sword attack in San Francisco's Excelsior neighborhood. Authorities arrested Rony Aguilera, known as "Guerrillero," in the attack and believe Aguilera is an illegal alien from Honduras. Aguilera had been arrested in 2007 in an assault case, but was never reported to federal immigration officials due to San Francisco's sanctuary policy.[21]
  • In October 2008, a drunken driving illegal alien, Salvador Vivas-Diaz, crashed his car against the police car of Phoenix, Arizona policeman Shane Figueroa which later resulted in Figueroa's death. Vivas-Diaz had four arrest warrants, a suspended driver’s license, had been charged with forgery and failure to return to court but he was never reported to federal immigration authorities due to Phoenix's former sanctuary city policy.[22]
  • On February 3, 2009 Francis Hernandez, an illegal alien, plowed into a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop in Denver, Colorado leaving three people dead and two injured. Hernandez had been arrested numerous times before but was never reported to federal immigration authorities due to Denver's sanctuary city policy. [23]

Electoral politics

This issue entered presidential politics in the race for the Republican Party presidential nomination in 2008. Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo ran on an anti-illegal immigration platform and specifically attacked sanctuary cities. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney accused former mayor Rudy Giuliani of running New York City as a sanctuary city.[24] Giuliani's campaign responded saying that Romney ran a sanctuary Governor's mansion, and that New York City is not a "haven" for illegal immigrants.[24]

After the murder of a restaurant waitress in Albuquerque, New Mexico in late June 2009 by three illegal alien suspects (one of whom was not deported despite being arrested for two prior DUI incidents), mayoral candidate Richard Berry decried the city's sanctuary city policy. He also vowed, if elected, to repeal the policy that has been continued by the incumbent mayor Martin Chavez.[25]


  1. ^ a b "Newsom says S.F. won't help with raids". SFGate. 2007-04-23. 
  2. ^ "Sanctuary Cities, USA". Ohio Jobs & Justice Political Action Committee (Salvi Communications). 
  3. ^ Carpenter, Amanda B. (2007-05-04). "'Sanctuary Cities' Embrace Illegal Immigrants". Human Events. 
  4. ^ Elizabeth Llorente, "Newark Killings Become Immigration Flash Point," "The Record," August 14, 2007
  5. ^ Ronald Brownstein, "'Sanctuary' as battleground: Romney and Giuliani Spar Over What Roles Cities Should Have in Enforcing Immigration Laws," "Los Angeles Times," August 22, 2007,0,6571076.column?coll=la-opinion-columnists
  6. ^ IIRIRA 287(g)
  7. ^ Katie Zezima, Massachusetts Set for Its Officers to Enforce Immigration Law The New York Times, December 13, 2006
  8. ^ Tancredo pulls plug on 'sanctuary cities', Even Democrats throw support behind amendment to nix funds to local governments shielding illegals WorldNetDaily
  9. ^ Barge, Chris (2007-06-16). "House approves Tancredo's amendment on 'sanctuary cities'". Rocky Mountain News.,1299,DRMN_15_5588922,00.html. 
  10. ^ Eunice Moscoso, "Legislation introduced to make illegal presence a felony; punish “sanctuary cities”," "Austin American Statesman," September 18, 2007
  11. ^ Chertoff Warns Sanctuary Cities on Illegals "NewsMax" September 6, 2007
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^,0,4317178.story
  17. ^,2933,387722,00.html
  18. ^
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  20. ^,0,3807924.story
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ a b Tapper, Jake; Claiborne, Ron (2007-08-08). "Romney: Giuliani's NYC 'Sanctuary' for Illegal Immigrants". ABC News. 
  25. ^


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