Sanctuary Cities: What You Need to Know

  • Dec 12 2018

One of the hottest topics in immigration in 2018 was sanctuary cities. Sanctuary cities as a term has become somewhat of a buzzword in the ongoing debate over immigration in this country. Some believe sanctuary cities protect immigrants who commit crimes, while others argue that cities and counties have a right to protect undocumented immigrants living within their jurisdiction. It all boils down to how immigration law should be enforced and by whom, with cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago adopting the title of sanctuary cities and declaring that it is up to them to decide how to treat undocumented immigrants living within their boundaries.

Most often, where sanctuary cities come into play is when an undocumented immigrant comes into contact with the police. Commonly, this can happen as a result of a traffic stop, such as if they are speeding or have a broken license plate or tail light. It can also happen if an undocumented immigrant calls the police to their home to deal with a domestic violence dispute, if they get into a car accident, or if they go through a police checkpoint.

When an immigrant is arrested, their information is put into a federal database shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE then has the power to issue a hold, which is also known as a detainer, and can ask local police to hold the immigrant in custody until ICE is able to pick that person up for immigration detention—and eventual deportation.

Legally speaking, under the due process clause of the Constitution, the police cannot detain anyone who is not at least suspected as a crime, and being undocumented is not a crime in the United States. Further, several United States Courts have said that holding an immigrant post the point when they should be released, simply so ICE can pick them up, is unconstitutional.

In sanctuary cities, instead of holding an arrested immigrant indefinitely and waiting for ICE to pick them up, police release the immigrant after they are cleared of their charges, have posted bail, or have served the required time for whatever they were arrested for. Non-sanctuary cities, however, will continue to hold that immigrant until ICE can come pick that up.

It is important to note that ICE is still able to conduct raids, arrest, and detain immigrants in sanctuary cities. All that is affected in sanctuary cities is the level of local law enforcement involvement in ICE’s activities. Further, it is also important to note that if an immigrant is charged with a serious crime like a felony, even sanctuary cities may detain the immigrant while filing and pursuing charges.

Need an Immigration Attorney?

If you are an undocumented immigrant charged with a crime and you do not live in a sanctuary city, do not make the mistake of thinking you can handle your case on your own. You need an experienced attorney by your side to help you avoid deportation, and to defend you against any crimes you are charged with. At the Talamantes Immigration Law Firm, APC, we have represented many undocumented immigrant clients charged with crimes. Contact Talamantes Immigration Law Firm, APC, today to learn how our experienced lawyers can help you.

Posted in: Immigration Law