What is a “sanctuary city”?
It’s one of the words flying around during the US presidential nominations: a city that refuses to take legal action against illegal immigrants. Donald Trump, billionaire, TV personality and wildcard in the Republican race, hates them. Hilary Clinton, Democrat frontrunner, backs them, but, in a shaky moment after local woman Kate Steinle was killed by an illegal Mexican immigrant in San Francisco, declared that she couldn’t stand behind a city that didn’t act on federal orders to deport the migrant in question, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez. (He had been convicted on drug charges and had already been deported from the US five times.)
It’s hard to get figures on just how many sanctuary cities there are in the US, as it isn’t a legal term: it simply describes a city’s policy on dealing with immigrants. A recent analysis from the Centre for Immigration studies, however, puts it at around 200. Usually, sanctuary policies manifest themselves in the fact that municipal funds will not be spent on deporting or investigating immigrants, and police officers don’t ask individuals about their immigration status.
In a way, it’s the ideal hot-button topic, for right-wing politicians in particular: it combines the issue of immigration with the fact that some cities are effectively undermining federal policy by refusing to carry it out on a local level.