By Luis Bravo
Luis Bravo is a rising freshman at the University of Pennsylvania.
In one of his last strides to push for immigration reform before he leaves office, President Obama urged Congress in his Saturday weekly address on June 6 to pass a previously agreed-upon immigration bill that would “bring more undocumented immigrants out of the shadows so they can get right with the law.”  But in many cities across America, undocumented immigrants live as everyday citizens with neither fear of deportation nor dire necessity to embark in the long and often times complicated immigration process.
Known as sanctuary cities (or safe havens), these hubs are shelters for illegal immigrants, protecting them through either legal provisions or de facto practices. Though the term does not have a formal legal meaning, it has gained popularity and widespread usage since 1989, when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors first declared the Golden Gate City a “sanctuary.”  Since then, other cities such as Washington, DC, Houston, San Jose, and Detroit have adopted laws that protect illegal aliens in varying degrees, thus serving as sanctuaries.
At its minimum, police officers in these cities are banned from questioning an individual’s immigration status. Cities such as Los Angeles, however, have a higher grade of illegal immigrant protection, mandating officers to “not arrest nor book [people] for violation of Title 8, Section 1325 of the United States Immigration Code (Illegal Entry).”  Additionally, through President Obama’s executive orders such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, qualifying undocumented individuals are eligible to receive a provisional clearance to stay in the country and work permits to be legally employed and attend school.
Protection is more than just legal, though, as the citizens and law enforcement in these cities also grant amnesty. Instead of reporting illegal immigrants and calling the authorities, residents turn a blind eye, sometimes even employing individuals without proper authorization. Similarly, law enforcement agencies such as Border Patrol show little to no interest in deporting individuals without proper alien status.
Even though these sanctuary cities have flourished and become increasingly prevalent in the country, they are often subject to backlash. Most recently in Texas, state Senator Charles Perry of Lubbock has garnered attention for Senate Bill 185, which proposes stopping the adoption of sanctuary policies in local governments. He states that the legislation “is not an anti-immigration bill — it’s a rule-of-law bill.”  Similar pieces of legislation have swirled across various states for years, all with the common intent of banning the implementation of future sanctuary policies and undermining the existing ordinances. Regardless, these cities have managed to persevere and provide illegal immigrants security, and, most importantly, time to await the passage of comprehensive immigration reform. Though the correct course of action to fix our broken immigration system is all but clear, until we fix the immigration process, sanctuary cities will continue to spread their influence and grow while they provide the only feasible alternative to full-scale immigration reform.
 Julian Aguilar, “Sanctuary Cities Bill Back in Play in Senate,” The Texas Tribune, March 16, 2015.
 Peter Fimrite, “Newsom says S.F. won’t help with raids/Mayor pledges to discourage feds’ immigration sweeps,” San Francisco Gate, April 23, 2007.
 Special Order No. 40 of November 27, 1979, on Undocumented Aliens, Office of the Los Angeles Chief of Police,
 Barack Obama, “Weekly Address: Celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month, (Press Conference, White House, June 6, 2015)
Photo Credit: Flickr User Icars
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