Sanctuary City Toolkit

Sanctuary City Toolkit

Latest addition MARCH 12, 2018

Threats against “sanctuary” cities and other local jurisdictions are not new, though they have gained significant momentum in the aftermath of the 2016 national election. Although the term “sanctuary city”—which often is used by opponents of “sanctuary” policies—is overly broad and may refer to policies that differ significantly in their details, it generally refers to a jurisdiction that has adopted a policy limiting the degree to which local and state law enforcement officers may assist in federal immigration enforcement.

Over the past half-decade, in response to both community leaders and numerous federal court cases that successfully challenged the legality and constitutionality of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “detainers,” hundreds of localities and several states have adopted policies that limit the role of police in enforcing federal immigration laws. (An ICE detainer is a request by ICE that a particular person be held in local law enforcement custody until ICE can take custody of them.)

Communities nationwide embraced these policies, sometimes referred to as “sanctuary” or “community-trust” policies (because they contribute to maintaining or building trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement), for public-safety, fiscal, and legal reasons and despite pressure from ICE to participate in the failed Secure Communities (S-Comm) program. In mid-2015, as ICE began replacing S-Comm with the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), some members of Congress began to push harmful legislation to penalize state and local jurisdictions that have community-trust policies. Similarly, in the 2016 legislative cycle, there were no fewer than 26 attempts by states and several federal attempts to penalize “sanctuary cities.” None of these efforts were successful.

The resources in this toolkit were developed during recent battles to defend against anti–sanctuary city/community-trust proposals. It includes resources developed in both federal and state legislative battles. As the 2017 legislative cycle gets underway, we anticipate that additional resources will be developed. If you are willing to share a resource that you’ve developed in your community-trust work, or if you have questions related to this toolkit, please contact Melissa Keaney ([email protected]) or Avideh Moussavian ([email protected]).


Local and State Governments and Officials
Members of Congress
Community Leaders and Organizations
Immigrant, Civil Rights, and Labor Organizations
Law Professors
Law Enforcement



Talking points: Why AZ Lawmakers Should Oppose HB 2223 & SB 1378
Bills: (1) HB 2223 would have prohibited cities and counties from refusing to collect information regarding an individual’s immigration status or provide such information to federal officials; (2) SB 1378 sought to prevent the state treasurer from giving any shared funds to a “sanctuary city”

Talking points: Why AZ Lawmakers Should Oppose HB 2451 & SB 1377
Bills: SB 1377 and HB 2451 sought to remove the possibility of parole or shortened sentences for immigrants serving time. The bill passed both chambers and was signed into law by Governor Ducey on March 31, 2016.


Talking points: Please Oppose HB 151 and HB 453

Bills: HB151 453 would have penalized “sanctuary cities,” which were defined very broadly to include any policy that limits communication or cooperation with federal immigration officials, and would have mandated detention under immigration hold requests.


Talking points: Why Mississippi Representatives Should Reject Senate Bill 2306

Bills: SB 2306 sought to forbid sanctuary cities in Mississippi, would have granted authority to local law enforcement to assist federal agency in detaining undocumented people, and would have protected law enforcement against legal liability.


Talking points: Why Missouri Lawmakers Should Oppose SB 612

Bills: SB 612 sought to create a new state law crime for illegal re-entry, which is conduct already regulated under federal law.


Talking points: Why North Carolina Lawmakers Should Oppose HB 318

Bills: HB 318 sought to require the use of E-verify for all contractors with the state, barred the acceptance of matricula consular cards as identification, and prohibited the adoption of “sanctuary policies” which was defined as a policy that limits inquiry and communication of immigration status information. The bill passed both chambers and was signed into law by Governor McCory on October 28, 2015.


Talking points: Talking Points on Virginia’s SB 270

Bills: SB 270 sought to prevent sheriffs and jail superintendents from releasing inmates who federal immigration authorities had requested be detained beyond their sentences on a federal immigration detainer request. This bill passed both chambers, but was vetoed by the Governor.


Talking points: Why Wisconsin Lawmakers Should Oppose LRB 2771/5
Bills: LRB 2771/5 (also called AB 492) would have made it illegal for a state or local agency to prohibit inquiry about immigration status of individuals seeking services from the agency and would have barred any policy limiting communication of immigration status information to the federal government.

Talking points: Information about AB 450 / SB 723, a bill to increase collaboration between police and Immigration agents
Bills: AB 450/SB723 sought to make illegal any policy that limits inquiry into the immigration status of an individual detained or arrested or any policy that otherwise limits cooperation or assistance with federal immigration authorities.


Fact Sheet on Sanctuary Policies and 8 USC 1373 (Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Feb. 2017).

Talking Points on Sanctuary Cities, the OIG Memo, and 8 U.S.C. § 1373 (Christopher Lasch, Sturm College of Law, University of Denver, Oct. 24, 2016).

Getting Police Out of Deportation: Key Frames and Messages (Jon Rodney, CIPC, Feb. 2016).

The “Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act” Will Put Critical Law Enforcement and Community Funding at Risk and Hurt Public Safety (NILC, AILA & CAP, Oct. 2015). This factsheet highlights significant federal funding that states risk losing if S. 2146 becomes law.

The “Stop Sanctuary Cities Act”: How S. 1814 Endangers Public Safety and Undermines Local Law Enforcement (NILC, Sept. 1, 2015).

Legislative Threats to Undermine Community Safety Policies: The Costs of Entangling Local Policing and Immigration Law (NILC and National Immigrant Justice Center, Aug. 2015). This fact sheet outlines public safety, fiscal, and legal reasons why law enforcement leaders nationwide have embraced community-trust policies and opposed law enforcement entanglement in immigration enforcement.

Sanctuary Cities, Trust Acts, and Community Policing Explained (American Immigration Council, 2015). This factsheet outlines the origins of the term “sanctuary city” and explains why states and localities have embraced community trust policies.

Immigration Enforcement Authority for Local Law Enforcement Agents (Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Dec. 2014). “This document seeks to clarify when, if ever, a local law enforcement agency has authority to arrest or prolong detention based on suspected civil immigration violations.”

Local Law Enforcement Leaders Oppose Mandates to Engage in Immigration Enforcement (NILC, Aug. 2013). This factsheet surveys statements by a wide range of law enforcement associations, departments, and officials in opposition to mandates that they enforce federal immigration laws.


A Path to Public Safety: The Legal Questions Around Immigration Detainers (Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force, Feb. 27, 2017).

Legal Issues Regarding Local Policies Limiting Local Enforcement of Immigration Laws and Potential Federal Responses (legal memo by Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd. on Tenth Amendment, 8 U.S.C. 1373, and “sanctuary” policies, Jan. 13, 2017).

Guidance Concerning Local Authority Participation in Immigration Enforcement and Model Sanctuary Provisions (New York State Attorney General, Jan. 2017).

Opposition to HB 675, Requiring Local Law Enforcement to Enforce Federal Immigration Law (ACLU, Jan. 20, 2016).

ACLU Statement for Immigration and Border Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee Hearing on “Sanctuary Cities: A Threat to Public Safety” (ACLU, July 23, 2015). Letter from the ACLU on HR 3009, the Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act.


Local and State Governments and Officials

California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Urges U.S. Senate to Oppose Immigration Legislation Undermining Public Safety and Community Trust (Oct. 19, 2015).

United States Conference of Mayors letter to Senate Judiciary Committee (Sept 16, 2015). Letter opposing S.1814.

Letter from mayors of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, and Long Beach to California members of Congress (Sept. 11, 2015).

National Association of Counties letter to Members of Congress on H.R. 3009 and S. 1814 (July 30, 2015). Opposes measures that would withhold fed law enforcement funding from sanctuary cities.

Letter from U.S. Conference of Mayors and National League of Cities to Congress (July 20, 2015).

Members of Congress

Letter from members of Congress to President Trump requesting that he rescind section 9(a) of Exec. Order 13768 (March 14, 2017)

Community Leaders and Organizations

Faith Community Leaders Letter to Members of Congress.

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Coalition Letter (Oct. 9, 2015).

National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women (July 21, 2015).

Immigrant, Civil Rights, and Labor Organizations

LouisianaSign-on Letter from National Organizations to Louisiana State Senators and Representatives Re: New Orleans’ Bias-Free Policy: Chapter 41.6.1, “Immigration Status” (May 9, 2016).

ArizonaLetter to Governor Ducey of Arizona discouraging support of SB 1377 (Mar. 24, 2016).

FloridaOpposition to HB 675, Requiring Local Law Enforcement to Enforce Federal Immigration Law (Michelle Richardson, Director of Public Policy & Advocacy, ACLU, Jan. 20, 2016).

MassachusettsTestimony in Opposition to HB 1856 (Katie Belgard, Political Director, SEIU 32BJ, Dec. 10, 2015).

NHLA Opposition to S. 2146, Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act (National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, Oct. 15, 2015).

Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security of the House Judiciary Committee, Hearing on “Sanctuary Cities: A Threat to Public Safety” (ACLU, July 23, 2015).

Vote NO on the “Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act” (H.R.3009) (sign-on letter, July 22, 2015).

Law Professors

Law Professor Letter to President Trump Regarding Constitutionality of Executive Order on Sanctuary Cities (Mar. 13, 2017)

Law Enforcement

Major Cities Chiefs Association letter to House Judiciary Committee opposing H.R. 3003, the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act” (June 26, 2017).

Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force Letter (Oct. 15, 2015).

County Sheriffs of Colorado letter to Senator Gardner opposing H.R. 3009 and S.181 (Sept. 3, 2015). References cases in other states that have ruled that ICE detainers are not warrants.

Major County Sheriff’s Association Letter to Senate Judiciary Committee (July 21, 2015). Letter opposing grant penalties to sanctuary cities.


Assumption of Risk: Legal Liabilities for Local Governments That Choose to Enforce Federal Immigration Laws (American Immigration Council, American Immigration Lawyers Association, National Immigrant Justice Center, National Immigration Law Center, and Southern Poverty Law Center, Mar. 2018)

Protecting Immigrant Communities: Municipal Policy to Confront Mass Deportation and Criminalization (The Center for Popular Democracy, Mar. 21, 2017)

Immigration Detainers Legal Update (Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Feb. 2017).

The Effects of Sanctuary Policies on Crime and the Economy (Tom K. Wong, NILC, and Center for American Progress, Jan. 26, 2017). Using an ICE dataset obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, the analyses in this report provide new insights about how sanctuary counties perform across a range of social and economic indicators when compared to nonsanctuary counties.

Sanctuary, Safety and Community: Tools for Welcoming and Protecting Immigrants Through Local Democracy (Demos and LatinoJustice PRLDEF, 2017)

Santuarios, seguridad y comunidad: Herramientas para acoger y proteger a los inmigrantes a través de la democracia local (Demos y LatinoJustice PRLDEF, 2017).

Local Options for Protecting Immigrants (Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Dec. 14, 2016).

Immigration Status (New Orleans Police Department Operations Manual, chapter 41.6.1, revised Sept. 25, 2016).

Building Support for Keeping Local Law Enforcement Out of Deportation (Belden Russonello Strategists, Dec. 2015). Analysis of focus group research.

Statement of Administration Policy: S. 2146 – Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act (Executive Office of the President, Oct. 20, 2015).

Recent Court Decisions Relating to ICE Detainers (ACLU, Aug. 20, 2015).

Rapid Response to Anti-Sanctuary City Bill (PPT, Massachusetts Trust Act Coalition).


Trump Can’t Force “Sanctuary Cities” to Enforce His Deportation Plans (Erwin Chemerinsky, Annie Lai, and Seth Davis, Washington Post, Dec. 22, 2016).

The Great “Sanctuary City” Slander (New York Times Editorial Board, Oct. 16, 2015).

Don’t Blame Local Police for Bad Immigration Policies (Mary Meg McCarthy, Chicago Tribune, July 23, 2015).

Communities Are Safer When Law Enforcement Roles Are Clear (Chief Richard Biehl, The Hill, July 15, 2015).

ICE vs. the Constitution (Hector Villagra, Los Angeles Times, July 13, 2015).

The Giant Deportation Machine Runs Amok (Robert Morgenthal, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 13, 2013).