top of page

Advocacy: Sanctuary Policies

Loosely defined "Sanctuary" cities, counties, and states limit their cooperation with the national government to enforce immigration law.  Local governments have no legal obligation to help with civil immigration enforcement - a decision to help ICE is completely voluntary.


"Sanctuary" can mean many things:  some places have official policies and some just have verbal commitments to support immigrants (i.e. Welcoming America cities & nonprofits).  For places that do have formal policies, the scope of those policies can vary greatly and it is important to remember that "Sanctuary" in not a legal, or clearly defined term.

Below are some details about the value of sanctuary policies and some links to articles and reports about the state of sanctuary in this country.  Given that this is a rapidly changing landscape, check at the sites of the organizations listed below for the most up to date information.

The Value of Sanctuary:

At the county level,  the immigration and criminal legal systems have become very intertwined.  Immigrants not convicted of an offense can become victims of an unjust system, one that, because it is considered civil law, denies immigrants the right to a public defender and due process of their case.  Often immigrants are imprisoned, without access to counsel or even a right to a bond hearing, in for-profit detention centers.

In addition to this being a gross violation of human rights, this creates a climate of fear among immigrant communities, and people in crisis forgo public help of all kinds (health care, food stamps, support for victims of crime, etc).   

Focusing Efforts

Although it is important for cities to have clear & comprehensive sanctuary policies, it is even more critical to ensure that county and state governments have unambiguous, detailed policies against cooperation with civil immigration enforcement.

More Information:

Sanctuary Policies Across the USA

Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC)

Searching for Sanctuary: An Analysis of America's Counties & Their Voluntary Assistance with

Deportations (December 2016)

Detailed report on the state of sanctuary in the USA as of December 2016, best practices for sanctuary policies, and where to focus efforts.

National Immigration Law Center (NILC)

Sanctuary City Toolkit

Toolkit for advocating for sanctuary policies.  Includes talking points, fact sheets, legal research, and letters of support 


Expanding Sanctuary: What Makes a City A Sanctuary Now? (January 2017)

Important report discussing the need think about sanctuary for all communities affected by law enforcement.  This includes finding real ways to stop over policing of communities and to halt mass incarceration.  

San Francisco Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs

Sanctuary City Ordinance

Information & FAQs about San Francisco's Sanctuary City Ordinance.  Also includes link to most recent version of ordinance.

Sanctuary Cities & States

bottom of page