Expanded Sanctuary—Policies to Resist and Protect

In part two of this blog series on Expanded Sanctuary, we make the case for an intersectional and expanded approach to sanctuary for cities in order to better protect its residents from dangers created by federal discriminatory policies. Click here to read part one.

 “The destiny of our planet, our towns, and our lives is caught up in each others’ fates.” – Marisa Franco, Mijente

In response to growing threats under the current Administration, Latinx, Black, Muslim, and transgender organizers are coming together to lead a new movement for “Expanded Sanctuary” – a simple and radical re-definition of sanctuary as dignity and protection for all. While typical sanctuary city policies have focused on protections for undocumented immigrants, expanded sanctuary policies recognize that the current administration is jointly threatening the rights of a wide range of communities. Subsequently, the best policies to protect city residents from unwarranted targeting address the issues various communities face together. Expanded Sanctuary is a policy approach that recognizes our collective liberation.

Janaé Bonsu, National Public Policy Chair of BYP 100, explains in her article in Essence magazine, Black People Need Sanctuary Too: “Without addressing safety and protections for all targeted communities, sanctuary is a misnomer…Whether it’s stop-and-frisk or no-knock raids, both undocumented immigrants and U.S.-born Black folks have a vested stake in redefining what sanctuary really means, and in resisting Trump’s ‘law-and-order’ agenda. Trump has made it clear that he is committed to strengthening all law enforcement, not just immigration agents. Thus, policies that address racist policing, incarceration and criminalization must be part of the demands of the immigrant rights movement. As long as the immigration and criminal justice systems are interconnected, creating real sanctuary cities is an issue of linked fate and real practical, principled solidarity.”

Expanded Sanctuary Policies for Cities & Counties

There are straightforward policy changes available to cities and counties that want to expand sanctuary to be radically inclusive of all communities threatened by the current administration and historically oppressed. The key components of expanding sanctuary at the city and county level involve: (1) reducing unnecessary arrests and over-policing; (2) eliminating profiling and broad surveillance; (3) and shifting funding to community programs.

Reduce unnecessary arrests & over-policing

  • De-criminalize crimes of poverty/survival such as fare evasion, panhandling, and loitering.
  • End law enforcement quotas for tickets and arrests.
  • Increase the use of diversion programs as an alternative to formal criminal charges.

In 2015 in New York City, 29,000 people were charged with fare evasion on public transit, the largest category of arrests in the city—and 94% were people of color. The numbers are so high in part because of daily quotas for fare evasion—each which come with a $100 fine—which if not paid, results in a criminal summons.

Eliminate profiling and broad surveillance

  • Discontinue the use of biased and unconfirmed gang databases.
  • Issue police directives against racial and religious profiling, and provide training.
  • Publicly refuse to engage in surveillance or infiltration of mosques, activist groups, and social media.

Gang databases have no fair and transparent process for how and why names are added, and are not always accurate. For example, in California, a gang database was found to include 42 people whose names were added before they were a year old. Yet they are used by local and federal law enforcement as a trusted source, and anyone in a gang database is a higher priority for deportation.

Shift funding to community programs

  • Re-allocate more of the city’s budget from law enforcement directly to jobs and education programs for the most marginalized, including transgender and gender-non-conforming individuals.
  • Invest in drug treatment and mental health treatment rather than arrests.
  • Refuse to receive federal resources for militarizing local police with tanks, grenade launchers, assault rifles, and more.

Many major cities now spend more than 50% of their budget on law enforcement, and nationally, if just 40% of those eligible received drug treatment instead of prison sentences, it would both save $12.9 billion and significantly reduce recidivism.

The time is long overdue for cities and counties to take their cues from people who have been suffering the most from over-policing such as communities of color and transgender people.

Mijente, which describes their work as “a movement that is not just pro-Latinx…but pro-Black, pro-women, pro-queer, and pro-poor because our community is all that and more” – is taking the lead on compiling exactly those resources. You can check out their detailed, crowdsourced “Expanding Sanctuary Policy Solutions” document here. Another fantastic resource is BYP100’s “Agenda to Keep us Safe,” their policy platform to end criminalization of Black youth.

Keep an eye out for the Love Resists policy guide coming soon on the campaign website, and our next blog post in this series, Expanded Sanctuary in Our Schools!

Defining Sanctuary Cities – and Why that Definition Must Expand

Part one of our Expanded Sanctuary blogs looks at the meaning and limitations of sanctuary cities. 

“When I hear the word ‘sanctuary,’ I envision a place that is safe for everyone — regardless of citizenship status, gender, religion, or any other marker that deems one ‘other’ in this country…I envision self-sustaining, well-resourced communities with strong bonds and networks of people who call on each other in times of need.” – Janaé Bonsu, Black Youth Project 100

Today, cities like Chicago, Boston, and New York are proudly re-affirming their commitment to being sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants in the face of threats to their federal funding from the Trump administration. But what does it actually mean to be a “sanctuary city,” and what does it not mean?

At a basic level, self-declared sanctuary cities publicly refuse to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants under most circumstances. However, beyond that, a common definition does not exist; rather, there are different levels of protection for immigrants bundled together under the catch-all term “sanctuary,” with some cities only doing the bare minimum and others providing maximum protection within the boundaries of the law.

Yet the greatest limit of sanctuary cities lies in racist policing practices, which affect both immigrants and U.S. citizens of color. How can a city call itself a sanctuary city if unarmed black men are being shot by the city’s police? What about a sanctuary city that doesn’t ask for immigration status, but does charge undocumented immigrants for driving without a license, resulting in a misdemeanor and their fingerprints being sent to the FBI and ICE? How can we applaud a sanctuary city that has arrest and ticket quotas for crimes of poverty like fare evasion on public transit, and then balances their budget off the backs of its poorest residents, mostly Black and Brown?

Now that the courts have blocked the President’s Executive Order to defund sanctuary cities, cities with a vision to create an environment that is safe and welcoming for all must do more. All of those scenarios are examples of “criminalization.” The best way to build a broader, more inclusive kind of sanctuary city is by listening to the solutions proposed by those most directly impacted by criminalization, who understand intimately what real, lasting change needs to look like.

In an earlier blog post, we took a deeper look at how “criminalization” is used to justify racial bias and inequality by treating entire communities as criminal, or potentially criminal. Criminalization is both symbolic and literal: it works through repeated stereotypes (we all know who is automatically associated with terms like “illegal,” “terrorist,” or “drug dealer”) and through actual arrests that create criminal records (although Black people use marijuana at a similar rate as white people, they are up to eight times more likely to be arrested for it depending on which state they live in).

Criminalization is grounded in “nativism” – a xenophobic nationalism that seeks to protect not only traditional power and wealth, but also white, straight demographic dominance in the United States. Criminalization and discriminatory policies use the same tools towards the same ends whether their target is race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, poverty, mental illness, or any other status that pushes groups of people to the margins of society. As Marisa Franco of Mijente explains, “In order to ‘make America great again,’ some of us will have to die, some of us will have to be pushed out, and some of us will have to be silent, malleable, and complacent.”

One clear example is the dozens of state bills introduced in recent years to prevent the fabricated threat of “Sharia law,” a set of Islamic codes guiding moral practice, from being implemented in U.S. courts. Anti-Muslim hate groups claimed that radical Muslims aimed to take over the justice system, but the bills’ originator, attorney David Yerushalmi, suggested an ulterior motive: “If this thing passed in every state without any friction, it would not have served its purpose.” It needed to attract controversy to render Muslims more suspect in the public eye. Notably, as Muslim Anti-Racism Organizer Manzoor Cheema explains, “80 percent of these laws were introduced by legislators that also introduced anti-gay marriage laws, anti-abortion laws, voter suppression laws, anti-immigrant laws, and right-to-work (anti-union) laws.”

Similarly, North Carolina’s infamous anti-transgender bathroom bill of 2016, HB2, also included provisions that revoke workplace discrimination protections based on race, religion, sex, and age. HB2 was a profoundly intersectional bill, raising to light how justifying oppression against one community opens the doors for oppression against all people treated as “other.”

The alt-right advances intersectional politics of hate. The only way to resist is through intersectional politics of love. What does this look like and how can we advocate for this? Stay tuned for our next blog post in this series: Out Intersectional Strategy: Expanded Sanctuary.