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The Limits of Sanctuary in the Face of Increased Immigration Enforcement

In today’s heated political environment, immigration is one of the most discussed topics in the media. President Trump is working to enforce immigration laws and increase deportation efforts to remove more non-citizens from the country than ever. In fact, according to the New York Times, the number of arrests of immigrants without criminal records has more than tripled in New York City since Trump took office in January 2017. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have begun tearing people from the lives they’ve established in America, and organizations that work to prevent deportation have erupted in protest. Some states and cities have even begun to fight back against the anti-immigrant atmosphere plaguing the nation today.

All non-citizens in this country are at risk of deportation, however, there are some places that ICE agents generally will not pull people from. These somewhat off-limits zones include churches and schools and are known as sanctuary locations. ICE agents usually avoid these zones unless under certain circumstances or direct order from someone of greater authority.

Beyond these specific places, there are some cities known as “sanctuary cities” that help protect non-citizens from deportation. This means that in many cases, police officers, doctors, teachers and other authority, will not report non-citizens they discover to ICE officials. Each city has varying policies, however, each essentially limits the extent to which law enforcement officials follow the demands of federal immigration authorities.

Some states even have similar sanctuary laws. California has a law that prohibits local and state authorities from questioning people about their immigration status or taking part in federal immigration enforcement. However, it has been argued primarily by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, that these states’ laws contradict federal law, and has even begun the process of suing the state of California. Fundamentally, though, it is up to each local law enforcement agency to decide whether to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law as it technically falls outside the scope of their duties.

While these sanctuary cities and states enact these policies in an effort to protect non-citizens from deportation, they are not completely free of risk. Because these policies do not comply with federal law, ICE authorities continue to have jurisdiction over them to arrest immigrants once they are discovered. In addition, the state will not necessarily hide information about immigrants residing there from the authorities. This information is shared with the FBI and becomes available to ICE. While these sanctuary states and cities will not go out of their way to have non-citizens arrested, they typically do not conceal known information about them from federal authority, either.

If you or a loved one is seeking citizenship or is facing deportation, it is important to discuss your legal rights and protection options with an experienced New York immigration attorney. For more information or to schedule a consultation with our New York immigration lawyers, call (212) 267-2555.

Immigration Consequences of Criminal and Fraudulent Conduct
The immigration consequences of criminal or fraudulent conduct can be harsh and often illogical. Even a very minor offense could have a dramatic immigration consequence, including deportation, detention without bond, being denied naturalization, a visa or re-entry into the United States. Likewise, the use of fake or fraudulent documents, aliases, and other misrepresentations can have similar immigration consequences. Kerry Bretz and Bretz & Coven have been counseling non-citizen criminal defendants, as well as their lawyers, for over 20 years. We have a long history of strategizing deportation and removal defenses, as well as applications for waivers, in very complicated cases.

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