What is a sanctuary city?

Last update: February 21, 2018

It is a city where law enforcement does not inquire about immigration status and limits its cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

What makes them different?

When an individual is arrested and booked by a law enforcement officer in a sanctuary city, his or her fingerprints are typically not submitted to ICE, or are submitted late, or the city might not even comply with requests by ICE to hold the individual.

Why does it matter?

If ICE gets fingerprints of an individual they consider a priority for removal, they will come to the local jail to pick him or her up. There is an ongoing debate as to which group of undocumented immigrants are considered ‘priority for removal’. Different U.S. administrations have had different views on the topic.

Can ICE carry out raids in a sanctuary city?

Yes.

Why are churches sometimes called ‘sanctuaries’?

Churches, schools and hospitals, wherever they are in the United States, are considered ‘sensitive locations’ by ICE. Traditionally ICE has not sought out undocumented immigrants in these areas, whether or not they are in a sanctuary city.