The term sanctuary city is a generalization used to describe the cities that do not use city funding to enforce federal immigration regulations. These cities have decided by legal regulation, internal memo, or force of habit not to ask about the immigration status of individuals they contact.

Cities across the United States have embraced sanctuary policies; some sanctuary policies are even executed statewide.

Does That Mean an Illegal Immigrant Cannot Be Deported From a Sanctuary City?

No, while local law enforcement may decide not to inquire about the immigration status of people, such ordinances cannot prohibit the federal government from implementing immigration law within the jurisdiction.

Do Sanctuary Cities Benefit or Harm the Community?

This is a question that is still under debate.

Those who oppose sanctuary cities state that by actively declining to notify federal authorities of the illegal status of an immigrant, they are helping them evade legal deportation and threaten the community. The opposition points to news stories in which community members are killed or attacked by illegal aliens who had already been arrested by local police for other crimes but not reported to federal immigration officials. There are several lawsuits in progress in which families of murder victims killed by illegal immigrants are suing the cities that failed to report those illegal immigrants to federal authorities due to their sanctuary policies.

Those who support immigration sanctuary cities say that having a “don’t ask, don’t report” type of policy helps curb crime. They say that within specific communities where immigrants are heavily populated, individuals are more likely to come to police officials to report crimes or act as witnesses if they understand that the city won’t ask about immigration status. Without these policies, individuals would fear coming forward, if not for their own sake, then for family members or friends in the U.S. illegally.

So, Are Sanctuary Cities Illegal?

That is a tough question. Technically, immigration policy and enforcement is the domain of the federal government. State and local government workers can be trained and licensed to act on immigration matters, but these lower governments are not presently mandated to participate in the federal training programs.

Cities and states aren’t bound to use their own resources to help implement federal immigration regulations. Sanctuary cities are just places that have standardized the decision to put those resources elsewhere.

What Type of Documents and Questions Should I Gather Before I Meet with My Immigration Lawyer?

The single best thing a person facing deportation or removal can do is hire an immigration attorney to fight on their behalf. There are several items that foreign-born individuals facing sanctuary city issues should be sure to collect before meeting with their immigration lawyer.

After a consultation, the types of documents that an immigration attorney will want to review include:

  • Legal documents related to the removal case (e.g., Notice to Appear, Notice of Hearing, etc.);
  • A list of witnesses willing to testify in the person’s favor (e.g., good moral character) and against removal;
  • A copy of their birth certificate or other documents that specifies their country of origin;
  • A copy of their passport and any supporting documentation that demonstrates they entered the country legally;
  • Their green card or permanent resident card (if applicable); and
  • Miscellaneous other items that will depend on the reason that they are seeking relief from removal:
    • For instance, if the person is alleging that they obtained permanent resident status through a qualified spouse, parent, or child, then they should bring copies of that family member’s:
      • Birth certificate or permanent resident card;
      • Marriage certificate;
      • Financial records; or
      • Real estate documents (e.g., lease, mortgage, joint title with a spouse, etc.).

On the other hand, if the person claims that they are qualified for cancellation of removal, their immigration attorney will need to review a different set of records. Therefore, in this instance, the person should bring the following documents:

  • Letters of recommendation that provide proof of good moral character;
  • Records that show the person has had a steady presence in the United States for at least ten years (e.g., financial records, pay stubs, mortgage contracts, utility bills, etc.);
  • Evidence that shows a dependent relative will suffer extreme difficulty if the person is deported (e.g., a child, spouse, or parent); and
  • Previous criminal records (if applicable).

In addition, the person should also draft a list of questions for the meeting. For example, suppose they do not understand a specific removal requirement or they have a question about the court hearing like what to wear. In that case, they should ask these questions during the meeting with their immigration attorney.

What Makes a Strong or Weak Case for Removal or Deportation?

A foreign-born individual can prepare a strong case against removal by hiring the right attorney, delivering sufficient evidence to support their reasoning, and complying with various immigration regulations and requirements. Generally speaking, the stronger their evidence is, the better their chances are of preventing removal.

In contrast, a case can be made weaker by doing the opposite of all the mentioned actions. For example, suppose the individual does not have a solid reason to stay in the United States or does not offer sufficient enough evidence to establish their reason is valid and genuine. In that case, this can damage their chances of stopping the removal process.

A case may also be made weaker by not hiring a lawyer to defend them. While an individual is not required to retain counsel, it is naturally recommended due to the intricacies associated with immigration laws and the removal procedure itself.

Lastly, an individual may have a weak case if they have entered the country unlawfully or have been convicted of an aggravated felony. Although there may be some exceptions to these circumstances, they are usually grounds for removal.

Do I Need an Immigration Attorney?

The removal process is an extremely complicated area of immigration law. This is because the rules and requirements to prevent a foreign-born individual from being removed are not always clear, especially regarding the regulations governing removal defenses.

Thus, you should strongly consider retaining an immigration attorney or a removal attorney if you are in danger of being removed from the country and believe you have a legally valid reason to remain in the country.

If you have been arrested and face removal/deportation in a sanctuary city, you should speak with an immigration attorney immediately.

You may also need to hire a removal or deportation attorney when a removal case involves drafting certain legal documents. These include a motion to reconsider, a witness affidavit, or a motion to stay removal to help you present a strong legal defense against your removal or deportation.

Additionally, suppose you are not a lawful permanent resident and need to apply for an adjustment of status or for a green card based on cancellation of removal defense. In that case, you should consult a removal attorney for further assistance. They can help ensure that this process goes smoothly and that your green card will be valid. Consider using LegalMatch to find the best deportation lawyers for your needs today and improve your chances of remaining in the United States.