What’s a sanctuary city and what’s Trump’s problem with them?

Sanctuary cities harbor undocumented immigrants from deportation. President Trump created an executive action that requires all cities to comply with federal deportation requests, or else lose federal funding.

Several cities have challenged Trump’s executive order including San Francisco, Portland, and New York.

The philosophy behind sanctuary cities is generally three-part. The first has to do with the 4th amendment—specifically being jailed without a warrant. To understand it, let’s look at how the deportation process usually works, as explained by the Washington Post.

  1. An undocumented immigrant is arrested for committing a crime, unrelated to citizenship (drunken driving, drug possession, disorderly conduct, etc.)
  2. The immigrant is booked into a local or county jail.
  3. At the jail, the person’s fingerprints are taken and sent to the FBI which sends the inmate’s information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
  4. If ICE finds the inmate is undocumented, it sends a request to the jail to hold the inmate an extra 48 hours after they would otherwise be released so they can get a warrant to begin deportation proceedings. Under Trump’s new policy, ICE could begin deportation earlier in the process before criminal proceedings are complete.

Here’s where it gets funny. The Department of Homeland Security doesn’t require local or county officials to comply with ICE’s request because keeping someone in jail without a warrant violates the 4th Amendment. So county policies decide what happens next.

Sanctuary cities and counties often decline these request and release the inmate once the criminal case is complete. However, some jails do comply if the inmate has “prior felony convictions, gang membership or is on a terrorist watch list,” according to a Department of Justice report.

Sanctuary cities also uphold this policy because they believe it helps build helpful relationships between the undocumented community and the police. They don’t want undocumented people to feel afraid to contact the police if they need help or to report crimes.
The third concern is discrimination. “We find this involvement of local jails really troubling—it really undermines the idea that the criminal legal system protects everyone when a police stop is gateway to deportation,” said Lena Garber, an attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource center as reported by the Washington Post.

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