Legislation Related to Sanctuary Cities

In this post, we will discuss several examples of legislation related to sanctuary cities, or jurisdictions:

            Perhaps one of the earliest, well known city ordinances related to sanctuary cities came from the city of San Francisco. In 1989, San Francisco passed the “City and County Refuge Ordinance,” Otherwise known as the Sanctuary Ordinance. The city ordinance prohibited city officials and law enforcement from using funds or support from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to assist in detaining and arresting undocumented immigrants (Sanctuary City Ordinance).”. The ordinance set precedence for other jurisdictions to make rules regarding the relationship between state and local law enforcement and ICE. In 2013, San Francisco updated the ordinance. “This ordinance limits when City law enforcement officers may give ICE advance notice of a person’s release from local jail (Sanctuary City Ordinance).”

Today, there has been a renaissance of discourse related to the topic of Sanctuary Cities and legislation related to it. One of the most extreme measures to ban sanctuary cities came in the form of Texas’ SB 4 Bill. The SB 4 Bill, passed by Texas legislature and signed by signed by Governor Gregory Abbot, requires all Texas law enforcement to comply with U.S Customs and Immigration Enforcement detainers (Five Things to Know about Texas’ SB 4 Bill). This prohibits local governments from not enforcing federal immigration laws and would deny any policy from a local government that prohibits officers from inquiring about a person’s registration and immigrant status. This policy exists all throughout Texas and according to the National Immigration Forum, is being looked at in several states; North Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana.

   On the other side of the spectrum, California enacted Senate Bill 54. California Senate Bill 54 was passed by California legislature and signed by Governor Brother in October of 2017. The bill effectively makes California a “sanctuary state” by legalizing and normalizing state noncompliance between state law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement programs (California “Sanctuary State” Bill (SB 54) Summary and History). The bill prohibits state and local law enforcement from holding anyone undocumented on the demand of federal entities. In addition to that, it prohibits state and local law enforcements from asking about citizenship status and using any of their funds to assist federal immigration programs in detaining, arresting or ceasing any person suspected of being undocumented (California “Sanctuary State” Bill (SB 54) Summary and History).

            The President has remained a staunch critic of sanctuary cities. In his first 100 days of office, he implemented an Executive Action to withhold federal funding from sanctuary jurisdictions that “willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States (Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States).” In addition to that, the White House wrote that the jurisdictions must make use of all available funds and programs directed at removing undocumented immigrants from the country. The executive order has been controversial, and debated in several courts. In 2018, several U.S. District Courts ruled against the ban, calling it unconstitutional.


 “California ‘Sanctuary State’ Bill (SB 54) Summary and History.” Federation for American Immigration Reform. Accessed October 20, 2020. https://www.fairus.org/legislation/state-local-legislation/california-sanctuary-state-bill-sb-54-summary-and-history.

“Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” The White House. The United States Government, 2017. https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-enhancing-public-safety-interior-united-states/.

“Five Things to Know about Texas’ SB 4 Bill.” National Immigration Forum, n.d. https://immigrationforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/SB-4-five-questions.pdf.

“Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs.” Sanctuary City Ordinance | Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs. Accessed October 20, 2020. https://sfgov.org/oceia/sanctuary-city-ordinance-0.

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