Sanc­tu­ary cities aren’t break­ing laws

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION -

The May 23 news ar­ti­cle “Jus­tice memo de­fines ‘sanc­tu­ary city’ ” re­ported that sanc­tu­ary cities are de­fined as those that “vi­o­late a fed­eral law re­quir­ing lo­cal and state gov­ern­ments to share in­for­ma­tion with fed­eral au­thor­i­ties about im­mi­grants’ cit­i­zen­ship or le­gal sta­tus.” In fact, the law in ques­tion, 8 U.S. Code 1373, does not re­quire state or lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions to share in­for­ma­tion. Rather, it says that gov­ern­ments may not pro­hibit other gov­ern­ment en­ti­ties or of­fi­cials from send­ing or re­ceiv­ing in­for­ma­tion about the “cit­i­zen­ship or im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus . . . of any in­di­vid­ual” to or from the Im­mi­gra­tion and Nat­u­ral­iza­tion Ser­vice.

So a state gov­ern­ment may not pro­hibit a lo­cal gov­ern­ment from shar­ing im­mi­gra­tion in­for­ma­tion with im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties, but the lo­cal gov­ern­ment is not af­fir­ma­tively re­quired to do so. Sim­i­larly, lo­cal gov­ern­ments, such as those in sanc­tu­ary cities, may not pro­hibit their po­lice de­part­ments from send­ing or re­ceiv­ing such in­for­ma­tion, but the po­lice are not obliged to do so. Nor are they re­quired to col­lect or re­tain such in­for­ma­tion. The col­lec­tion, re­ten­tion and shar­ing of in­for­ma­tion about im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus is vol­un­tary for states and lo­cal­i­ties, and ac­cord­ing to the Im­mi­grant Le­gal Re­source Cen­ter, “sanc­tu­ary poli­cies are en­tirely con­sis­tent with fed­eral laws.”

David Boe­sel, Sev­erna Park

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