Does sanctuary city status pose a threat to local jurisdictions?

Many people have pondered this question in light of cities across the nation including Portland and Hillsboro, which have become designated sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants.

Arguments against sanctuary status include loss of federal funding.  Cities like Hillsboro are not compelled by threats to pull federal funding since less than 1% of Hillsboro’s funding comes from the federal government.  Another argument against sanctuary status is that it draws attention to the community from Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), which will backfire on the very people seeking sanctuary.  While not the case in Oregon, other states, such as Texas object to sanctuary cities and the federal government has gone so far as to say it will seek to punish cities that provide sanctuaries to undocumented people.

As local communities face the possibility of funding shortages, state level objections and special ICE attention it’s important to highlight the purpose behind designating a community a sanctuary. Since the November election, an increasing and disturbing number of racially motivated assaults, property damage and threats have emerged. From swastikas painted on homes and the NY subway to repeated bomb threats to Jewish temples, racist behavior has become more brazen and dangerous.  For undocumented racial minorities, racist behavior is an even bigger threat.  Many undocumented immigrants face the possibility of deportation should they report being victims of hate crimes; consequently, undocumented immigrants are particularly vulnerable to hate crimes where the likelihood of submitting a complaint is low.

There is nothing legally binding about sanctuary status.  In Oregon, local jurisdictions are barred from carrying out federal immigration orders and a local jurisdiction would not have the authority to interfere with ICE arrests.  While sanctuary status is symbolic, it sends a message that minorities and immigrants are not free game for racist behavior. The symbolic position further upholds the community’s value in family as many undocumented people are related to American voters.

Immigration is a complex and difficult issue.  Many fair arguments exist in favor and against sanctuary status.  The argument that sanctuary status draws attention from ICE is valid; however, the risk should ultimately be determined by those seeking sanctuary. If immigrants would rather bear the risk of facing down ICE than living in fear without the support of their community, then let them make that call.  As our country copes with emboldened racist behavior community support, albeit symbolic, is meaningful and warranted.

Promise King, president of the LMV testified at Hillsboro’s city council vote for sanctuary city status on March 7th while communications committee chair/board member Aimee Sukol also attended to show support. As an organization that promotes empowerment LMV is proud to stand by those pursuing the American dream.

Written by Aimee Sukol, Communications Committee Chair/Board Member

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