Sanctuary States? The Fight between State and Federal Governments over Immigration Policy


There has been a long history of state governments opposing federal immigration legislation, with examples including California’s Proposition 187 (barring immigrants from various social and medical services) and Arizona’s Proposition 200 (barring undocumented immigrants from voting or seeking public assistance). In both cases, the state governments were acting to limit opportunities for undocumented immigrants, and essentially reaching further than federal immigration policy.

But the increased emphasis on undocumented immigration with the Trump Administration along with shifting demographics has meant that some locales have started to re-evaluate their position relative to federal policy. The idea of ‘sanctuary cities’, for example, has recently gained attention as cities limit their cooperation with the federal government to help undocumented immigrants avoid deportation. Over the past few months, multiple American cities have declared themselves as sanctuary cities.

Individual states have also moved to position themselves as ‘Sanctuary states’.  California, for example, has passed legislation that increases the protection for immigrants by removing the ability of local law enforcement from turning individuals over to federal agencies for deportation. Other states, including Illinois and New York, have also passed legislation that restricts cooperation with federal immigration officials. How such policies fit with the federal government, or how the federal government responds, remains to be seen.

Further Reading:

Jennifer Medina and Jess Bidgood, California Moves to Add Protections for Immigrants; Other States Follow, The New York Times, 11 April 11 2017, p. A16


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