How are Sanctuary Cities Reacting to Recent ICE Raids?

October 19, 2020

In late September, The Washington Post reported that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would be increasing enforcement in three different sanctuary cities before the upcoming presidential election. This information was shared by U.S. officials, who preferred to remain anonymous. This so-called sanctuary op may be taking place soon in Philadelphia and Denver. Called an immigration enforcement blitz, this latest possible move by the Trump administration is part of the president’s campaign against immigration violators.

What is a Sanctuary City?

Sanctuary cities are localities and states that have certain policies and laws in place that can make it more difficult for ICE to locate and arrest immigrants for deportation. There are no set guidelines in place for sanctuary cities, and each one has different ways of operating. These cities limit the amount of resources they volunteer to support and enforce federal immigration enforcement agents and immigration laws. Some of these limits can include the following:

  • Opposing prolonged detention of suspected immigration violators who are in state or local custody
  • Refusing to jail people who have posted bond
  • Refusing to jail people who a judge has agreed to release
  • Denying federal requests to carry out joint patrols
  • Refusing to gather information, such as an individual’s immigration status, if it is not required to determine if that person qualifies to receive services

Cities may choose to become sanctuaries to protect their local budgets, to provide equal and fair access to all who are eligible, and to keep their residents safe. Some people living in immigrant communities may be afraid to report crimes because they fear deportation if they speak out. Sanctuary cities are not in violation of federal laws.

What Does ICE Have to Say?

A spokesperson for ICE did not comment specifically on the upcoming operations. He did say that planned raids are part of the agency’s routine operations that target and arrest individuals who violated the nation’s immigration laws. Other officials commented that the so-called sanctuary op was not a major ICE operation; instead, they described it as a political messaging campaign. They also stated that ICE prioritizes violators who have criminal records. Cities and counties have been warned by ICE about sanctuary policies in the past. These localities were told that additional agents would be sent to make arrests should they become sanctuary cities.

 How Do Sanctuary City Policies Impact ICE Operations?

Approximately 70 percent of ICE arrests happen after ICE is notified of upcoming immigrant releases from state prisons and jails. Since 2019, the agency has lodged over 160,000 of these detainees with law enforcement agencies. Besides refusing to detain immigrants for longer than required, sanctuary cities will usually not help ICE in other ways, such as checking a suspect’s legal status. This lack of local cooperation creates challenges for ICE officers because they do not know when the suspect will be released. This limits the number of possible deportees.

ICE representatives also claimed that sanctuary city policies increased backlogs of the agency’s at-large criminal and fugitive aliens that they are seeking to apprehend. Officials in these sanctuary jurisdictions also believe that their polices are beneficial because residents may be more likely to cooperate with local authorities, since they are not afraid of being deported. This in turn can safeguard community trust.

What Happens When Sanctuary Cities are Targeted?

The Trump administration has threatened to target sanctuary cities in the past. In several instances, they stated that they would strip these jurisdictions of federal funding. Last year, Trump tweeted that the operation would target migrant parents and their children, but there was not a large volume of arrests. In some cases, undocumented immigrants who hear about these operations end up going deeper underground. This is because they fear deportation, and oftentimes their children, who may be U.S. citizens, cannot go with them.

On September 28, ICE made 12 arrests in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. The sheriff restricted the region’s cooperation with ICE. An ICE official said that they could not stand by idly while knowing the public is being misled about the role ICE plays in keeping the public safe. According to ICE, six of the arrested immigrants had criminal convictions and were wanted for immigration violations.

How Have Philadelphia Advocacy Groups Responded?

Philadelphia is a sanctuary city and has a large pro-immigrant community. The community responded to the news about the raids quickly, but they did not want to create panic. The executive director of the South Philadelphia-based Latino advocacy group stated that the communities have a right to know and be prepared. She stated that the Trump Administration’s recent efforts are based on fear-mongering tactics and added that they would not go unchallenged.

Community members have been reaching out to the advocacy group considering this new development, and the group has restarted community resistance training. Residents can learn more about their rights, including how to respond should ICE come to their residences; should this happen, the advocacy group recommends not opening the door. If the ICE agents claim that they have a warrant in hand, they can be asked to slide it under the front door. Instead of signing any papers or answering any questions, residents can state that they want to speak with an immigration lawyer. This is also recommended if ICE officers stop a resident who is outside.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney stated that the city had not received notifications from ICE about increasing enforcement. Kenney also explained that if this did happen, it would not affect how the city is dealing with its undocumented immigrant population. There are other immigrant advocacy organizations in Pennsylvania, including the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition and the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia. However, for more pressing and serious matters, the best choice may be to contact an experienced immigration lawyer.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at the MC Law Group, LLC Protect Immigrant Rights

If you or someone you care for is in fear of possible deportation, reach out to the Philadelphia immigration lawyers at the MC Law Group, LLC. We offer free consultations, will explain your rights, and offer skilled legal guidance. Call us at 215-496-0690 or complete our online form today. From our offices in Philadelphia, we serve families throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide