Legal Victory Should Be First Step Toward Expanding Sanctuary

UUSC applauds the decision of District Court Judge William Orrick last Tuesday to block the implementation of the Trump administration’s executive order to cut funding to so-called “sanctuary cities” nationwide. This preliminary injunction reaffirms the right of local governments to serve all their residents, regardless of immigration status, and to limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement programs like civil “detainers” that operate outside the court system and—frequently—in violation of the constitution itself.

However, this case also highlights the ways in which undocumented residents will continue to be at risk, even in so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions. The court’s decision may have found this particular executive order to be a blatant case of overreach, but it leaves many of the tools that the federal government can still use to compel local jurisdictions to share information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through the criminal justice system untouched. This continues to expose undocumented folks to the threat of raids and family separation. It therefore points to the need for “expanded sanctuary” policies that end mass arrest and over-policing, not just traditional sanctuary.

President Trump’s January 25 executive order on “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” was blatantly unlawful and unconstitutional from the start—especially in its threat to designate “sanctuary jurisdictions” as “not eligible to receive federal grants[.]” The District Court on Tuesday ruled that it is only Congress, not the President, who has the power to attach conditions to federal grant programs. Our democratic Constitution ensures that the legislative branch makes the law, not the dictates of one individual, and Judge Orrick observed in his ruling that Congress has repeatedly failed to pass legislation in recent years that targets sanctuary cities in ways similar to this executive order.

It is important to recognize, however, the limitations of what the courts alone can do to protect sanctuary policies. The ruling does not, for instance, remove the laws already on the books that compel cities to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement in other quite dangerous ways.

The three federal grant programs with immigration conditions already attached to them require local jurisdictions to share information with ICE about a person’s immigration status when detained. Because this part of federal law still stands, even so-called “sanctuary cities” must send the fingerprints of every person they arrest to a federal database that is shared with ICE. As San Francisco argued in its complaint in this case, this effectively “allows ICE to determine the immigration status of everyone in San Francisco custody.”

This means that under existing law, there are still serious limitations around how much a sanctuary city can protect its undocumented residents through purely immigration-related policies. As Albert Saint Jean from the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) has put it, “ As an undocumented person, if you are arrested for jumping [a subway turnstile], that arrest means your fingerprints will be taken and given to a federal database and guess what—now ICE knows where to find you. This is the knowledge that facilitates ICE raids. All in a sanctuary city.”

This is one of the many reasons why “sanctuary” policies for one group of people will never suffice until we have expanded sanctuary for all. Undocumented people will never be protected from raids so long as our cities don’t also end racist and discriminatory law enforcement practices that expose certain communities to systematic mass arrest and mass incarceration.

Inspired and informed by the analysis of Mijente, BAJI, Black Youth Project 100, and other groups leading the front-line struggle against criminalization, the UUA and UUSC have joined together to launch the “Love Resists” campaign to stand in solidarity with the movement to expand sanctuary and end all policies that criminalize and stigmatize anyone in our communities.

Rights Reading

Our weekly roundup of what we’re reading includes a few select articles from the front lines of human rights that we don’t want you to miss. The theme of this week’s Rights Reading is: Resistance! We’re showcasing different ways communities are resisting across the United States.

“Sanctuary restaurants” are popping up in the US to protect their immigrant workers from Trump, Quartz, Chase Purdy, January 26, 2017

“Starting this week, restaurants across the country—from small-town delis to fancier eateries—have signed on to become “sanctuary restaurants,” something they hope will send a clear message to their employees, communities, and Washington that hardline policies won’t be received well.”

In a previous Rights Reading, we highlighted the launch of the “Sanctuary Restaurant” movement that was started by our partner, ROC United. With Latinos and Hispanics making up a quarter of restaurant workers in the United States, restaurant owners have been quick to sign on to the new sanctuary restaurant movement, and the movement is growing rapidly. Restaurant workers are facing increasing harassment and discrimination and the decision to become a sanctuary restaurant has become a “no brainer” for many business owners.

Sanctuary restaurants declare themselves hate-free and have a zero tolerance for discrimination. These restaurants have also agreed to give trainings on general rights and what to do if immigration officials come on site. They are also considering non-cooperation with police and other federal authorities, much like other sanctuary movements.

To learn more about this movement and find a sanctuary restaurant near you, check out their map with all of the different locations, and if you’re a restaurant owner, sign up here.

It may only take 3.5% of the population to topple a dictator – with civil resistance, The Guardian, Erica Chenoweth, February 1, 2017

“…long-term change never comes with submission, resignation, or despair about the inevitability and intractability of the status quo.”

The United States has a rich history of civil resistance, and today, more than ever, Americans are positioned to resist in greater ways. History shows that it only takes 3.5% of a population to overthrow a dictatorship. Further, “when campaigns are able to prepare, train, and remain resilient, they often succeed regardless of whether the government uses violence against them.”

From labor markets, to supporting farm-workers, and most recently, resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline, civil resistance has brought down systems of inequality, educated masses, and empowered minority communities. In fact, history has shown that non-violence resistance is more effective, safer, and less costly than armed resistance.

While there have been some ineffective resistance movements, this article highlights the characteristics of successful civil resistance movements. Patience, understanding the political dynamics that affect the issue(s), having a committed and diverse core of supporters, and building and leveraging connections, are some of the key traits that have led to successful civil resistance.

In the last two weeks, the United States has seen numerous examples of groups rising up and resisting new policies set forth by the Trump administration. Boycotting votes for Trump nominees, the Women’s March, and resisting the refugee ban are all forms of resistance that can defy these inhumane and discriminatory policies. We can do this!

San Francisco Is the First City to File Suit Challenging Trump’s Sanctuary City Executive Order, Jezebel, Megan Reynolds, February 1, 2017

“San Francisco is safer when all people, including undocumented immigrants, feel safe reporting crimes. San Francisco is healthier when all residents, including undocumented immigrants, access public health programs. And San Francisco is economically and socially stronger when all children, including undocumented immigrants, attend school.”

San Francisco has become the first city to sue the Trump administration’s executive order on defunding sanctuary cities. Forcing local and state laws to carry out federal law, under any circumstances, is unconstitutional and is the basis for this case. While many cities and towns have also resisted, declaring themselves as sanctuary or recommitting their cities and towns to be sanctuary, San Francisco is the first city to file a lawsuit. UUSC applauds the city in taking this action and is excited to see others follow suit.

To read more about the executive order and its proposed effects on sanctuary cities, check out the first of our blog series, What Trump’s Executive Orders Really Means.