About 70 people attended a public meeting in Easthampton earlier this month hosted by American Friends Service Committee of Western Massachusetts, focused on informing the community on what it means to be a “sanctuary city.” File photo
What does it mean to be a sanctuary city?
As the term sanctuary city buzzes around the nation, one undocumented Mexican immigrant studying constitutional law at Hampshire College takes issue with the designation.
Eduardo Samaniego said the declaration makes it seem as if municipalities like Amherst and Northampton are offering safe haven for immigrants like himself. But really, he said, all they’re doing is upholding the Constitution.
“They should be named Fourth Amendment cities,” he said, referencing the section of the U.S. constitution that prohibits searches, seizures and arrests without a warrant.
Sanctuary cities are generally defined as places where local police decline to cooperate with federal officials to deport undocumented immigrants who have otherwise not committed a crime.
Samaniego and other proponents of so-called sanctuary cities take aim at a recent push to rope local police officers into immigration enforcement, especially to federally-issued administrative detainer requests, which many argue violate due process.
“When local jails have people held longer without a warrant then they are violating the Constitution and the Fourth Amendment,” Samaniego said. “I as an undocumented immigrant don’t feel any safer (in a sanctuary city), but at least I know my Fourth Amendment rights are being upheld.”
To a certain extent, collaboration between local and federal law enforcement is mandatory — local departments must always scan and send to the FBI fingerprints of people they’ve arrested, whether they’re legal citizens or not.
But despite President-elect Donald Trump’s threats to defund those who don’t cooperate, departments are not obligated to seek out and detain people on behalf of the federal government, said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Laura Rótolo.
She said that level of collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement is voluntary — a legal gray area that some 350 municipalities nationwide are targeting with policies. “There is no legal definition of sanctuary city — it’s a political term, it’s not a legal term,” she said. “That term means different things to different cities.”READ MORE