In most cases, cities in the United States with sanctuary policies do not comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requests to continue detaining undocumented immigrants who have been arrested by local police for unrelated reasons. Cities and counties are able to refuse such requests because under the Immigration and Nationality Act, persons who reside in the United States without proper authorization – illegally entering or overstaying a visa – are regarded as a civil issue, whereas persons who enter without inspection (EWI) or have willfully disregarded a removal order are considered as a criminal offence. Only when a federal criminal investigation is underway do cities and counties, even those with sanctuary policies, have to comply with ICE detainer requests.¹
Source: Washington Post. Click to enlarge.
In Canada, a similar process occurs. Under subsection 4(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship is responsible for administering the act. However, under subsection 4(2), the act states the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is responsible for the enforcement of the act. The agency whose responsibility this falls to is the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The Inland Enforcement Division, similar to ICE, carries out investigations of foreign nationals and permanent residents within Canada who are believed to have committed a deportable offence. Much like ICE detainer requests, the CBSA relies on their relationships with local police to enforce the IRPA. A report compiled in 2015 by No One is Illegal – Toronto found that:
“[The Toronto Police Service] is the most frequent user of the CBSA’s Warrant Response System. Described as ‘an important component in effecting removal orders’ by the CBSA, the call centre is available 24 hours/day, 7 days/week to law enforcement officers who want to inquire whether an immigration warrant exists against a particular individual. In the period for which we have obtained data (part of 2014 and 2015), the TPS is responsible for 31% of all calls made by all law enforcement and transit agencies across the country. The TPS inquired more often than the RCMP, and more often than the police services of Montreal, Quebec City, Calgary and Vancouver combined.”
– No One is Illegal – Toronto
After much controversy over the death of Lucia Vega Jimenez, who was caught in 2013 for riding the transit system without paying her fare and subsequently held in a CBSA detention facility, the Metro Vancouver Transit Police ended its collaboration with the CBSA in 2015. A previous Memorandum of Understanding formalized a working relationship between the provincial police authority and federal enforcement agency to liaise with each other on immigration investigations. The metric to determine this relationship’s success was “the number of reports or arrests under the IRPA that are initiated by the CBSA Enforcement Officer or PREC [Pacific Region Enforcement Centre of the CBSA] as a result of this program” (p. 2).
Despite both Vancouver and Toronto eventually adopting sanctuary city policies, it is clear jurisdictional issues related to how immigration violations are enforced in Canada impact the future efficacy of sanctuary cities.
The states and large cities listed below represent only a fraction of municipalities that have made formal and informal advances to designate themselves as sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants. Since there is no standard for what constitutes a sanctuary city, a broad spectrum of patchwork policies have emerged. This has ranged from tacit acknowledgements that cities support undocumented immigrants, to cities who have passed explicit ordinances, bylaws, or resolutions which restrict public officials from inquiring about immigration status. In response to President Trump’s Executive Order on sanctuary cities, Cities for Action, a coalition of large city mayors in the United States, issued a statement reaffirming support for undocumented immigrants.
United States of America
|Los Angeles, CA||
|New York City, NY|
|San Francisco, CA|
Municipal ID Cards
A growing number of American municipalities have created or have instructed staff to explore providing municipal identification cards for residents, such as San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. Although cities with sanctuary policies have made it clear to staff that they must provide services regardless of a resident’s immigration status, this is not always the case. Advocates therefore argue that municipal ID cards would “make it easier for undocumented immigrants to rent an apartment, open a bank account, interact with police or anything else that can be difficult without proper identification.”
The City of Toronto has considered implementing municipal ID cards. In 2014 though, a Staff Report outlined reasons against moving forward with municipal ID cards. Staff noted that legal restrictions like the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) would require publishing a “full description of a municipal identification card database [that] would have to be publicly transparent in the Directory of Records on the City’s website.” Staff also noted ambiguity around information-sharing with provincial and federal governments.
As a result, staff recommended that the City of Toronto not move forward with this project.