Sanctuary Cities can be a confusing topic – it can suggest to some that cities are actively welcoming and encouraging undocumented residents. In practice, however, a sanctuary city provides a passive form of protection, and sanctuary cities are defined by what they don't do more than what they do.
In a sanctuary city, police do not actively engage in immigration law enforcement. I.e, they're not checking paperwork and immigration status while doing other police duties. This allows the undocumented population to feel able to call the police when they're victims of crime, as well as to participate in police investigations more freely.
Per Congresswoman Betty McCollum, In 2004, St. Paul passed a special ordinance to address this. Her website states:
In 2004, St. Paul passed a “separation ordinance” that restricts city employees — including police — from asking about a person’s citizenship status before rendering services. In 2014, Ramsey County stopped detaining people based on suspected civil immigration violations without probable cause. These policies make it easier for law enforcement officers to prioritize keeping our community safe.
With the White House's apparent new war on immigrants, sanctuary cities have come under heavy fire, and it's more important than ever for communities to take a stand. Both the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul have pledged to "keep in place ordinances that separate the work of local police from that of federal immigration enforcement" according to this Star Tribune article.
There are a lot of reason it's crucial that cities of all sizes join those taking a stand. Here are a few, from the philosophical to the practical:
1) Unless we're natives of this country or were brought by force, Americans are all immigrants who were seeking a better life. Our ancestors enjoyed a lax documentation process that (for many of us) was no more than a stamp and a nod at Ellis island. They were able to carve out a life for themselves and future generations. At a basic moral level, it is unfair that those of us whose families have enjoyed the benefits of that policy are now slamming the door in the face of those coming at a more politically charged and difficult time. We don't own this country, and a sanctuary city affirms our shared struggles, our compassion as well as the inherent decency of the American promise.
2) Despite xenophobic rhetoric to the contrary, the undocumented population is among the most law-abiding in this country (see this NYT article or simply google crime stats). Removing the fear of police allows police to better protect this population, as well as communicate more freely re. crimes and investigations.
3) The Trump administration has signaled a nod to a return to for-profit prisons, which includes detainment centers. Imprisoning people for profit is one of the most problematic aspects of our justice system and it has gone on for centuries. Similarly, for-profit detention centers stand to make money from overly-enthusiastic immigration law enforcement. Until there is a clear separation between justice and profit (which Obama was beginning to delineate by ending for-profit federal prisons), there are far too many undocumented people who could fall prey to a predatory and profitable set up. Until conflict of interest issues are resolved with this President, there is no reason to assume his motives are anything other than his interests in the for-profit prison and detainment industry.
4) Golden Valley, is already a de facto sanctuary city. Making it formal would be a huge benefit with zero cost. It frees our police to focus on safety, and it prevents the development of an antagonistic relationship with the undocumented people living here – an antagonism that serves no one. Finally, it costs us nothing to make a positive statement, and it heartens a population that is badly targeted at this troubling time in our nation's history. Make no mistake, people are being separated from their families and undergoing trauma right now. Canada reports they have an unprecedented volume of undocumented people flooding their border – from the U.S.! The country that is supposed to provide safe harbor.
Progressive We Stand is strongly in favor of Golden Valley becoming an official sanctuary city. As an alternative measure, we recommend exploring a "separation" ordinance that will free Golden Valley to oppose both immigration orders and other troubling federal initiatives. Please write City Council members and ask them for their consideration. Contact info here.
Additional: To support the state effort to make Minnesota a sanctuary state, voice your support of SF1110 to your representative.