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Legality of sanctuary city policies a subject of contention

As we've noted previously on this blog, sanctuary cities are currently a hot topic as the Trump administration makes changes in federal immigration policy, having signed an executive order earlier this year aimed at ending support for sanctuary cities. Again, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Governor Gregg Abbot are both in support of cutting funding to cities that do not cooperate with efforts to enforce federal immigration law, but the issue remains contentious in many places.

Much of the contention around sanctuary cities lies in arguments over their legality. It's a tough issue, because, first of all, sanctuary policies vary from city to city. Second, cities with sanctuary polices don't all consistently enforce those laws. Opinions vary concerning the legality of sanctuary cities policies, as is evident from a set of editorial pieces published last month. 

Opponents of the Trump administration's stance on sanctuary cities argue, among other things, that the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the federal government from forcing states to cooperate in the enforcement of federal laws. They point to Supreme Court decisions highlighting legal precedents that would prevent Trump from defunding cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities.

Supporters of Trump, on the other hand, point to the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which established the principle that federal law takes precedence over state and local law. They also point to the Illegal Immigration Reform Act of 1996, which forbids state and local governments from prohibiting or restricting the transfer or receipt of information concerning an individual's citizenship or immigration status to or from federal authorities. The provision has been interpreted in different ways, making it somewhat politicized.

It remains to be seen how this issue will play out in the courts, but we'll be certain to keep our readers updated. In our next post, we'll look briefly at the deportation process and how an experienced attorney can help immigrants ensure their rights are protected.


Boston Globe, "'Sanctuary cities' have the law on their side," Renee Loth, March 6, 2017.

Fox News Opinion, "Gregg Jarrett: Sanctuary cities won't find refuge in law," Gregg Jarrett, March 28, 2017.

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