What is a Sanctuary City? 

Vulnerable MigrantsA sanctuary city is one that has ordered their city officials not inquire about people’s immigration status. This is most pertinent when citizens are interacting with the police, local licensing offices, or when they are in state and city courts. Currently, there are at least two hundred sanctuary cities throughout the United States, including Philadelphia, Baltimore, Minneapolis, New York, Reno, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, and Miami.

The issue of sanctuary cities became hotly debated in 2015 when a young woman was murdered by an undocumented immigrant in San Francisco, after he had been deported five times. Sanctuary city mayors, such as Philadelphia mayor, Jim Kenny, have stated that a sanctuary city creates better relationships between citizens and police officers. It prevents an effect that could occur when undocumented immigrants do not report crime if they are afraid that police will automatically report them as undocumented to federal officials.

Local and state police have no direct jurisdiction over immigration laws and therefore cannot enforce them directly. If city or state officials create a policy to inquire or investigate a person’s immigration status, they can also report undocumented people to the federal government. However, no city or state official can charge an undocumented person just because he or she is undocumented.

How Philadelphia Lines Up

As a sanctuary city, Philadelphia does not automatically inquire about, or report an arrested person’s immigration status to federal officials. Additionally, the city is not required to follow any federal policies regarding immigration. If the federal government does obtain information that a sanctuary city has an undocumented immigrant in custody, it can request that the person be held for up to 48 hours, and the sanctuary city must comply. Yet, cities are under no such obligation after 48 hours, and sanctuary cities will generally not hold a person longer than the required time as it would be a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

In certain sanctuary cities, undocumented people can obtain a driver’s license permitting them to work. On the other hand, if a city has passed local legislation to declare itself a sanctuary city, that does not protect undocumented people from raids or other activity by federal agents within the city. The federal government still has jurisdiction to carry out its activities anywhere within the United States. The sanctuary status only means that local officials will not assist federal officials in the legal activities they carry out in that city.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. are Knowledgeable About the Latest Legislation Affecting Immigrants in Pennsylvania

The Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. advise clients on how to interact with local and federal officials if they are questioned about immigration status. Contact us online or call us today at 215-925-4435 to discuss your case. We represent clients in and around the Philadelphia area, including those in Delaware County, Montgomery County and Philadelphia County.