Getting the Facts Straight on Sanctuary Cities

Recent incidents in New York City have fueled fear-mongering and baseless attacks on sanctuary city policies. New York’s long-standing sanctuary policies are public safety measures – laws that protect entire communities and encourage immigrants to access police protection. The term “sanctuary city” has no universal definition and applications vary across jurisdictions. 

Below are facts to help clarify common misconceptions about New York’s cooperation with federal immigration law enforcement:

FACT: Sanctuary cities are safer for everyone.

  • Sanctuary policies allow immigrants to report abuses and engage with public safety officials without fear of deportation. 
  • Sanctuary city policies allow immigrants to feel more comfortable acting as witnesses in criminal investigations.
  • On average, 35.5 fewer crimes are committed per 10,000 people in counties with sanctuary policies compared to those that do not. 

FACT: Anyone who commits a crime in a sanctuary city is still subject to the same criminal proceedings as anyone else.

  • New York’s sanctuary policies only bar local law enforcement from honoring ICE detainer requests, which seek to hold undocumented immigrants in custody for up to an additional 48 hours after they would normally be released.

FACT: Sanctuary policies do not limit all cooperation with federal immigration authorities. 

  • Local law enforcement is permitted to honor detainer requests including when ICE provides a judicial warrant. 

FACT: New York’s sanctuary city policies are in compliance with federal law.

  • The Supreme Court has clarified that immigration enforcement is the sole duty of the federal government.
  • Federal law does not require local law enforcement to collect information on immigration or citizenship status – nor does it prevent jurisdictions from limiting the collection of such information.
  • The federal government cannot force local jurisdictions to honor ICE detainer requests. 
  • Sanctuary policies do not actively prevent federal officials from carrying out their own immigration enforcement.