Since taking office, President Donald Trump’s administration has fought against sanctuary cities — cities that restrict cooperation with federal immigration policies — and has threatened to withhold federal grants from cities and states that do not cooperate with immigration officials. Furthermore, on March 13, a federal appeals court ruled that Texas can legally bar its cities from offering refuge to undocumented immigrants. Before the the March 13 ruling, in May 2017, Senate Bill 4 was passed in response to the growth of sanctuary cities across Texas, requiring city authorities to cooperate with federal immigration officials and giving the police the power to question the immigration status of anyone who is arrested. However, the decision to be a sanctuary city should be the city’s jurisdiction, not the state or federal government’s.
The emergence of sanctuary cities can be traced back to the 1980s, when the Reagan administration refused to grant asylum to Central American refugees, who were fleeing their politically unstable home countries. The first major city to take on a resolution was San Francisco, which issued the “City and Country of Refuge” resolution and ordinance in 1989.
In 2014, New York became one of the first states to limit cooperation with federal agents in the detention of undocumented immigrants. With over half a million undocumented immigrants living in New York City, officials have redoubled their efforts to protect them despite threats from the Trump administration. Mayor Bill de Blasio has not backed down, even setting aside $26 million of New York City’s budget to provide legal assistance to immigrants. Furthermore, the City Council passed Introduction 1568-2017 on Oct. 31, 2017, stating that no New York City funds would be used to enforce federal immigration laws.
Though the federal government has grown increasingly hostile toward undocumented immigrants and insists on hardline policies rather than a comprehensive solution, sanctuary cities allow undocumented immigrants safety and the chance to work toward citizenship. Furthermore, sanctuary cities are proven to have lower rates of unemployment and poverty, and higher median incomes than other cities, proving that amiability toward immigrants is mutually beneficial. Crime is also lower in sanctuary cities than in non-sanctuary cities. If a city benefits from the contributions of its immigrants, it should be its decision to protect them in order to promote the betterment of the city as a whole. The Sanctuary Campus Movement has also taken root across the country, with more and more universities pushing to offer enrollment to undocumented immigrants. NYU has not followed suit despite pushes from the student body.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to allow or outlaw undocumented immigrants should be a local one. Local governments should be allowed the opportunity to open their arms to residents regardless of citizenship rather than be forced to perpetuate the attacks of the federal government. Trump’s assault on sanctuary cities is concerning, not only because sanctuary cities are beneficial to their respective communities, but also because city sovereignty is an important component of democracy.
A version of this appeared in the Monday, March 19 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected].