New Haven Asks: What Makes A City A Sanctuary? | Connecticut Public Radio

New Haven Asks: What Makes A City A Sanctuary?

Mar 28, 2017

Municipalities in Connecticut and across the country have taken steps to protect undocumented immigrants. But what makes a so-called sanctuary city? 

WNPR and WSHU asked that question in New Haven this week.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Monday that sanctuary cities, which shelter people living in the country illegally, could be denied Department of Justice grants for refusing to cooperate with immigration authorities.

At an event at Gateway Community College, over 140 people attended to find out what it means to provide sanctuary, and they explored problems and solutions.

As was reported in The New Haven Register:

J.R. Romano, chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, was the lightning rod as he tried to explain the perspective of those who want stricter enforcement of deportation of undocumented residents to an audience that was working to protect them.

“A friend of mine worked his tail off to get into Yale. He didn’t get in. His spot was given to someone else. To him and his family he did everything right and that is unfair,” he said.

Romano said that kind of resentment is what fueled the presidential election with Donald Trump now in the White House.

And The New Haven Independent:

Though there is no legal definition of a sanctuary city, Yale Law School professor Muneer Ahmad said that about 600 jurisdictions, including states like Connecticut and cities like New Haven, have declared themselves sanctuaries by adopting policies that limit state and local immigration enforcement.

“And the reason for that is understanding that were state and local police to get directly involved in immigration enforcement they would undermine trust within communities,” Ahmad said. “Trust is essential to ensuring folks are kept safe, whether they are victims of crime or witnesses to crime.”

Mike Lawlor, Connecticut’s undersecretary for criminal justice policy, said at the New Haven event that the Trump administration hasn’t defined what a sanctuary city is -- and Connecticut is not in violation of any law.

"The United States Supreme Court has ruled multiple times that the federal government can’t force state and local governments to do their work," he told WNPR.

Lawlor said the Attorney General's press conference raised more questions than it answered.

"The president in his executive order specifically excluded grants to law enforcement agencies from the effect of the order," he explained. "So on the one hand, they’re saying they’ll take our grants away; on the other hand, but not if it affects law enforcement, and all these grants go to law enforcement."

If someone is wanted for a crime and there is a warrant, Lawlor said the person will be detained, but there's no obligation to honor detainer requests.

Lori Mack contributed to this report.