A Blueprint For Providing Sanctuary

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A Blueprint For Providing Sanctuary

An emergency immigrants' rights protest outside the White House in February 2017. (Photo: Victoria Pickering/cc/flickr)

An emergency immigrants' rights protest outside the White House in February 2017. (Photo: Victoria Pickering/cc/flickr)

Since Trump took office, we’ve seen unprecedented levels of fear in immigrant communities across the country. Reports of indiscriminate raids have incited panic among families, many of whom have grown scared to go to places once considered safe, even including schools and hospitals.

But alongside panic, we’ve also seen a renewed resolution to resist. Elected officials have taken swift action to defend their cities, counties, and towns from the Trump administration. So-called “sanctuary” policies have mushroomed across the country, in many cases propelled by the fearless efforts of local organizers.

This movement will only grow. Trump may try to undermine the values that make us so strong as a city and as a country, but in the face of an existential threat, we will not back down. If anything, today many are only more willing to stand up and fight back.   

But no one city or elected official can do it alone. Now is when elected officials must stand together and help each other learn from each others’ experiences.

To that end, the Center for Popular Democracy has recently put together a toolkit, Protecting Our Communities, compiling the best practices and most valuable lessons of cities who have passed sanctuary policies in recent years.

The toolkit, meant to be used by lawmakers and advocates alike, looks at several key ways that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) co-opts the resources of local law enforcement agencies to carry out immigration policies – and what cities and counties can do to limit the scope of this intrusion.

For example, cooperating with ICE on detainer requests is entirely optional – yet many cities rely on law enforcement agencies to make that choice. A better practice, the report notes, would be codifying changes into law, making any departmental policies harder to overturn.

Similarly, contractual relationships with ICE are entirely voluntary – including the 287(g) program, a core component of Trump’s Executive Order that gives state and local law enforcement officials the power to act as immigration officials. While they may be voluntary, though, the report recommends an explicit ban on such agreements, making it harder to overturn if the political winds change.  

The toolkit also details limits on federal power that localities should be aware of. For example, while cities and counties are required to share information about individuals’ immigration status with ICE, they are not compelled to share personal information, which can often be even more valuable in helping ICE track down immigrants for detention and deportation. Localities are well within their rights to restrict that kind of information sharing with ICE.

Finally, the toolkit looks at ways to be not just reactive, but proactive, creating an environment where immigrants and others feel protected. That includes rethinking harsh policing laws that make it easier for immigrants to be fed into the government’s mass deportation machine. It means setting up access to counsel programs that connect immigrants to lawyers, raising the likelihood they will win a deportation case. And it means considering programs like municipal ID and help with citizenship that make it easier for immigrants to integrate.

The report is an important resource, but it’s not all. This week we also held a conference for legislators from all over the country on sanctuary cities, the first convening of its kind. The convening was hosted by Local Progress, a collection of local legislators committed to better cities.

Today, the most forward-thinking policies in the country are often pushed at the local level, and sanctuary cities are no exception. The convening provided a place for legislators to strategize in coordination to promote a shared agenda and counter the danger from Washington. Cities have already proven how collaborating makes them stronger, joining forces to support litigation against the sanctuary cities Executive Order and Trump’s immigration ban.

To win this fight, we must all find new and even bolder ways to work together and stand unified against the threat of Trump. We know that there is strength in numbers, and we will do everything in our power to help the immigrants who form the very foundation of our country.

Andrew Friedman

Andrew Friedman is co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy.

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