U.S. Law Center

Immigrant safety in California sanctuary cities

A sanctuary is typically associated with a place of safety, such as a church. When the term is applied to a city, undocumented immigrants living and working in Riverside or Orange counties in California, may wonder whether being in one of these locations offers any level of protection from deportation.

According to CBS Los Angeles, the sheriff’s department in Orange county does frequently work with immigration agents. A person who has been incarcerated might face questioning about his or her current legal status. In addition, federal immigration agents may be warned by the agency when an immigrant who may be deportable is scheduled for release. However, a person would not be held in the jail because of a detainer.

A federal court decision in Oregon may be an influence on the reluctance of authorities in some locations, such as Riverside county, to work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. In that case, the judge ruled that local law enforcement could not hold someone in jail because of a suspicion of illegal status. Consequently, the threat of lawsuits could become a motivating factor in refusing to detain immigrants who have been arrested.

ABC News reports that many legislators on the state and federal level are concerned at the effects of local sanctuary policies. Some believe that full cooperation with ICE is essential, and a Riverside county state representative has proposed legislation to that effect. Federally, the Department of Homeland Security has recently developed a new program that affects enforcement tactics so that immigrants who have a criminal record may be more easily apprehended by agents.

Although an immigrant may face less risk of deportation after an arrest, there is no guarantee that being in a sanctuary city will prevent federal officials from becoming involved.

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