In the face of President-elect Donald Trump’s vow to “end the sanctuary cities,” New York’s Bill de Blasio, Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel, Seattle’s Ed Murray, and Chelsea’s city manager Thomas Ambrosino are among sanctuary city leaders assuring their undocumented immigrant populations they will do whatever they can to protect them. The Observer reports that Mayor de Blasio is also pledging to resist Trump’s proposal to implement the use of stop-and-frisk nationwide. (New York City’s implementation was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2013.) These cities are willing to forego federal funding to uphold their values.
“Seattle has always been a welcoming city,” Murray said Monday. “The last thing I want is for us to start turning on our neighbors.” In Providence, Rhode Island, Mayor Jorge Elorza, the son of Guatemalan immigrants, said he’d continue a longstanding city policy of refusing to hold people charged with civil infractions for federal immigration officials, and Newark’s Ras Baraka echoed that, calling Trump’s rhetoric on immigration “scary.”
Bill Ong Hing, a law professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law, explains why “sanctuary policies” and are constitutional and why it is permitted for states and cities to defy federal law.
The central teaching of the Tenth Amendment cases is that even where Congress has the authority under the Constitution to pass laws requiring or prohibiting certain acts, it lacks the power directly to compel the states to require or prohibit those acts. Congress may not, therefore, directly compel states or localities to enact or to administer policies or programs adopted by the federal government.
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, which considers sanctuary cities to be a public safety problem, there are about 300 sanctuary jurisdictions in the U.S. CIS asserts that police are forced to return criminals to their communities. Pro-immigration advocates contend that Trump’s sweeping immigration policies will cause worse harm, that they will “tear communities apart.” There are no easy solutions. What is clear is that many local officials will uphold their promise of “sanctuary.”
The Washington Post reports that these city leaders are not alone. “Thousands of students, professors, alumni and others at elite schools including Harvard, Yale and Brown have signed petitions asking universities to protect undocumented students.” It is not clear how many undocumented immigrants are currently attending U.S. colleges and of those how many are protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative. “Sanctuary colleges” is a new and untested concept. Nevertheless, the Harvard Crimson reported on Monday that 4,000 people signed a petition calling upon Harvard’s administration to protect the University’s undocumented students. The article quotes the students as saying that they were disappointed that while anti-Trump demonstrations were occurring on campuses across the country, Harvard had yet to have one. The students said that their demonstration was this petition because it was more tangible than symbolic.
Sign up for our free newsletters
Subscribe to NPQ's newsletters to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.
“We do not need words of comfort, your pity, or your sympathy,” the petition reads. “We need action that demonstrates this University’s dedication to concretely support all of its students, regardless of their immigration status.”
A Harvard spokesperson reminded the students that President Drew Faust was an early DACA supporter and that she and the school were “following developments in Washington closely and will be engaged in these core issues.”
Also on Monday, the Yale Daily News reported that since the election more than 2,300 students and faculty members had signed a letter asking the Yale administration to declare the campus a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.
Today, Wednesday, between 3 and 6 PM, a nationwide walkout is planned on many American campuses. This protest is inspired by the hashtag #SanctuaryCampus, created by the undocumented workers’ pressure group Movimiento Cosecha. Participating schools are “committing to putting [their] bodies between Trump and our most vulnerable students.”—James Schaffer
Note: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media, which is one of the sources referenced for this newswire. Kushner himself is the subject of some controversy, as he’s been added to the Trump transition team and allegedly been submitted for a top-secret clearance.