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What Are 'Sanctuary Cities?'

Cassandra Basler
In January, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp spoke at a rally against federal immigration raids. As a 'sanctuary city,' New Haven instructs its police not to ask about people's immigration status or to detain someone on behalf of federal immigration agents.

President-elect Donald Trump said he may pull funding from cities that don’t comply with federal immigration law, but mayors of New Haven and Hartford say they will remain ‘sanctuary cities’ for people without immigration documentation. WSHU’s Cassandra Basler reports on what makes a place a so-called ‘sanctuary city.’

Yale Law Professor Muneer Ahmad says it’s not easy to say. Ahmad runs the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School. He says the term sanctuary city describes a lot of policies that stop local police from acting like federal immigration officers.

“They’re not identical even across cities in the same state, much less across cities in different parts of the country.”

He says the policies are based on the idea that trust between immigrant communities and police help keep neighborhoods safer.

“The basic principle is for local, or in some cases state, law enforcement to focus on policing in their communities and to make that the priority, and to make trust within community members and law enforcement the priority, rather than to facilitate those communities being torn apart by virtue of immigration enforcement.”

For example, Ahmed says New Haven calls itself a sanctuary city because police won’t ask people’s immigration status and they won’t detain someone on behalf of federal immigration agents.

Cassandra Basler, a former senior editor at WSHU, came to the station by way of Columbia Journalism School in New York City. When she's not reporting on wealth and poverty, she's writing about food and family.
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