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Sanctuary Cities and Jurisdictions

What is a sanctuary jurisdiction?

There is no legal definition, but a sanctuary city or jurisdiction is generally a municipality that either refuses to implement federal immigration law or limits local law enforcement’s implementation of federal immigration law and cooperation with federal immigration agencies.  Some sanctuary jurisdictions have made verbal promises to their residents to act as sanctuary jurisdictions and others have codified their promise to refrain from assisting and/or cooperating with the federal government in enforcement of immigration law.

Are sanctuary jurisdictions legal in New York?

Yes.  In January 2017, New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued guidance to New York municipalities on how to become sanctuary jurisdictions while still complying with federal and state law in his memorandum entitled, “Guidance Concerning Local Authority Participation in Immigration Enforcement and Model Sanctuary Provisions.”  The memorandum, which includes helpful draft laws that can be modified for your particular municipality, can be found here:

Why become a sanctuary jurisdiction?

To promote public safety and save State tax payers’ money, as well as for humanitarian purposes.  When victims and witnesses of crimes are too frightened to report to and/or cooperate with police out of fear of being removed from the country, we are all less safe.  Building trust between and among all members of our community and law enforcement keeps everyone safer.  In addition, restricting or limiting local law enforcement’s implementation of federal immigration laws allows the State to more wisely use its resources to enforce State laws and protect its residents.  Moreover, many believe that the new administration’s immigration policies, which seek to remove all undocumented immigrants including those that are law abiding, paying taxes, and enriching our communities, are inhumane and do not want State resources being used to advance such policies.

Has President Trump issued an Executive Order that Prohibits Sanctuary Jurisdictions?

No, but he did issue an Executive Order on January 25, 2017, entitled, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” which threatens to strip federal funding and grants from municipalities that are sanctuary jurisdictions.  The full Executive Order can be found here:

City mayors across the country have voiced concerns regarding Trump’s threat to strip funding, arguing that the federal funds at issue are their residents’ own tax dollars and they should be spent however the jurisdiction sees fit.  Others have pointed out that any pull of funding or grants would be limited to those funds earmarked for law enforcement, thus making our communities less safe and potentially threatening national security in big cities such as New York and Los Angeles.

If your municipality is interested in becoming a sanctuary jurisdiction, consider contacting a municipal law attorney to help your jurisdiction draft and pass the appropriate legislation.


Jennifer S. Echevarria is an Associate with the firm and practices Immigration and Employment Law including U-Visas and wage violations.  She is bilingual in Spanish and can be reached by phone at 866-303-9595 toll free or 845-764-9656 and by email.

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