What does being a sanctuary city mean? What does Cape Cod offer? Here's information (2023)

Rachael Devaney|Cape Cod Times

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updatedon Sept. 28, to clarify the sanctuary designation of the First Congregational Church of Amherst. It is within a “secular sanctuary jurisdiction.”

When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took credit for flying50 migrants, mostly Venezuelan,from Texas to Martha's Vineyard on Sept. 14, the Republican presidential hopeful suggested it would be better for individualsto find a home in a liberal state.

“It’s better to be able to go to a sanctuary jurisdiction, and yes, we will help facilitate that transport for you, to be able to go to greener pastures,” DeSantistold reporters.

DeSantis' claim is wrong.

While the Bay State has several policies that protect migrants, the state has not adopted a sanctuary resolution or ordinance.

"(DeSantis) is leveraging disinformation to create widespread fear," said Lloyd Barba,assistant professor of Latin American studiesat Amherst College. "He is tapping at the culture wars, and ready made one-liners, which he preferred over accurate and truthful information."

Six Cape Cod towns designated "safe communities" by town meeting votes

Since 2017, six out of 15 Cape Codtowns have becomedesignated"safe communities," offering some protection to undocumented migrants, said activist Mark Gabriele.

But the word sanctuary, he said, can often be misunderstood.

"There isno protection for any criminal prosecution, or protection from ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) performing its functions," said Gabriele, of the Cape Cod Coalition forSafe Communities. "It’s a matter of the local police participating or not participating in ICE initiatives. That's the heart of it."

More: What is human trafficking? Does it happen on Cape Cod?

(Video) Border sees record apprehensions as GOP governors send migrants to sanctuary cities

Towns with safe community designations on the Capeinclude Provincetown, Truro, Eastham, Wellfleet, Brewster, and Dennis. Designations were largely established in 2017, as the result of coordinated citizen petitions sponsored during May and April town meetings.

Apetition was also submitted to theOrleansBoard of Selectman, and was introduced during May 2017 town meeting as Article 46. But the matter was indefinitely postponed and did not pass.

Michael Hager, a member of the coalition, led Eastham's efforts for safe community designation.

Town meetings approve disconnecting federal immigration authorities from local law enforcement

Eachtown's petition contained similar language, and asked the town Select Boardto tell town officials to refrain from using town money and other resources to enforce federal immigration law, unless presented with a criminal warrant or other evidence of probable cause.

The petitions also asked Select Boards to protect the civil liberties and human rights of all town residents regardless of age, race, ethnicity, ability, sexual and gender identity, marital or economic status, national origin, or citizenship and immigrant status.

"Whatit meantwas that there would be a disconnect betweenfederal authorities andlocal law enforcement," Hager said.

More: Immigration Attorney Rachel Self addresses Martha's Vineyard migrants sent Gov. by DeSantis

With safe communities, local officials agree to refrain from going after people based on immigration status

To Gabriele's point, Hager said, the designationonly works if local law enforcement embraceprotection measures. Federal immigration authorities can still enter a sanctuary town. It's the local officials who agreed to refrain from going after people based on their immigration status.

In Eastham, Edward Kulhawik was police chief at the time, and spoke in favor ofthe designation during May 2017 town meeting. Kulhawikwas hopeful it could helppromote public safety throughout the community,said Hager.

"He understood that having a safe community was consistent with community policing values. He respected all people — he didn't want to scare people," he said. "He wanted everyone — whether they were documented or not — to come to the police when they needed them."

In February 2020,Adam Bohannon became theEasthamchief of police. Bohannondid notimmediately return emailed questions from the Times regarding his outlook on the town's safe community designation.

Designations stemfrom Trump 2017 executive orders

Coordinated efforts to bring safe community designations to the Cape, said Hager, were in response to President Donald Trump's January 2017 executive order, banning foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries — an act that became known to manyas the "Muslim ban."

More: Migrants leave Martha's Vineyard with an emotional goodbye on the way their way Cape Cod

Coalition members, said Hager, were fearful thatundocumented immigrants, Muslims, and other minority groups would be harassed, or deported because of thosemeasures.

In that same year, the Trump administration also intensified immigration enforcement surrounding Central and South American migrants at the southern border, and others livingwithin the United States, said Hager.

(Video) Controversy over sending migrants to sanctuary cities reignites immigration debate

The Trump administration also made a real effort to motivate local authorities, particularly sheriffs, to be helpful to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

More: The clock may be ticking on Barnstable County Sheriff's Office ICE contract

"They wanted local law enforcement to allow ICE tointerview people andhold them beyond their release date,which the Massachusetts Supreme Court said was illegal," Hager said.

In December 2017, Barnstable County Sheriff James Cummings entered into a 287(g)agreement with ICE, which allows local deputies to serve as federal immigration agents and enforce federal civil immigration law. In its first year, the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office referred 79 inmates to ICE. Barnstable County isthe last remaining sheriff’s office in the state to have an active 287(g) agreement.

There are eight Sanctuary City designations within the Commonwealth

As Cape towns were voting on safe community designations,sanctuary city and sanctuary state designations were popping up across the United States, said Hager.

In Massachusetts, Amherst, Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Concord, Newton, Northamptonand Somervillewere established as sanctuary cities shortly after Trump was elected into office.

More: Rep. Dylan Fernandes speaks about migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard from Florida

The term "sanctuary" quickly became an explosive term, said Hager, with Trump threatening to withhold federal funding from cities established assanctuary cities. That's why the Cape coalition opted for the term "safe communities" instead.

Amherst College's Barbasaid sometowns and states refused to enact sanctuary designations, for fear of losing financial aid.

"A little town in California called Arvinis about95% Hispanic," he said. "The city council is Hispanic and they still chose not to become a sanctuary city because they were afraid Trump would withhold federal funding."

Barba went on to say there's no onedefinition of a sanctuary city. But, according to each city's public record and ordinance, local law enforcement should be limitinginformation they share with federal immigration officers.

"Local police officers are not supposed to allow immigration officers to come into local jails, interrogate immigrants on their immigration status," he said.

While the ordinances are important, Barba said sanctuary designations don't guarantee that police won't cooperate with ICE officials.

More: Migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard sue DeSantis in federal court. What the lawsuit says

"It’s kind of their (local police) call," he said. "If they are investigating a violent crime, in that case they could. It doesn’t work howone would assume."

(Video) DeSantis Slams 'Sanctuary' Cities After Flying Migrants To Martha's Vineyard

Migrants are not safe from deportation in areas designated as sanctuaries, according to one scholar

The misconception, Barba said, is that people think migrants are safe from deportation in areas designated as sanctuaries.

"That's a classic piece of misinformation," he said.

Los Angeles, Barba said, is a sanctuary city, within a sanctuary county, within a sanctuary state. But during Trump's time in office, large numbers of immigrants were deported.

"Los Angeles had three layers of a sanctuary protection, but again, huge (deportation) rates still happened," he said. "People were being rounded up at factories, parking lots, and their day jobs."

In New York City, which has a sanctuary designation, ICE worked harder for deportationsbecause local law enforcement wouldn’t cooperate.

"It's fair to say that sanctuary cities make ICE's job harder — because of the commitment to be more fair to immigrants," Barbasaid. "But there are unintended consequences of becoming a sanctuary city also."

Sanctuary-designated churches, hospitalsand schools provide true protection, according to Amherst pastor

Ironclad protections for migrants come into play only in sanctuary-designated houses of worship,hospitals, and schools, said VickiKemper, pastor at First Congregational Church of Amherst.

The concept surrounding sanctuary cityand safe community designations comes from the Old Testament, said Kemper. Hebrew scriptures under Moses describeasystem of sanctuary towns and villages set up for people whoaccidentally killed someone, so they wouldn't be subject to vigilante justice.

More: Immigrants flown to Martha's Vineyard staying at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church

"They could go to these designatedplaces and be safe there. A sanctuary town is the same kind of idea," she said.

In 2017, First Church's congregation considered becoming a sanctuary church and also advocated for the town of Amherstto become a sanctuary town.

"If somebody is looking for a safe place because of their immigration status, a house of worship is one of their best options," Kemper said.

More: Rooms where migrants are staying at Joint Base Cape Cod are set up like dorms

As deportations revved up in 2017, First Church congregation members voted tobecome an immigrant welcoming congregation.

"Meaning that we would welcome immigrants to our community, our town, and we would support immigration justice," she said.

(Video) Why sanctuary cities aren't safe under Trump | AJ+

Offering safe haven from October 2017 to March 2021

In September, Kemper and the church congregation learned that Lucio Perez of Springfieldwas facing deportation.

For years, Perez reported to regular check-ins at the Hartford ICE office, said Kemper. But in the late summer of 2017,he went for his regular appointment and was told to purchase a one-way plane ticket back to his home country of Guatemala. Perez complied with ICE orders, and at his next appointmentwas fitted with an ankle monitor. If Perez was ultimately deported, he would have been separated from his wife and children, who would remain in Springfield.

More: 'We are here to help': Cape groups ready to support Mass. agencies assisting migrants

In response, the church gave Perez safe haven from October 2017 to March 2021.

"It was the night before he got on the planethat he took sanctuary with us. As a result, he was eventually able to remain in the United States," Kemper said. "But it was years of complicated and unreasonable immigration law that he has had to deal with."

Throughout Perez' ordeal, Kemper said the whole Amherst community stepped up and local organizations, as well as members of Congress helped Perez obtain a year-long stay of deportation, which was renewed in March 2022, and eventually resolved in June.

"Houses of worship are really the only places that can offer somebody that kind of refuge," Kemper said. "Our faith in our community made sanctuary work for as long as it did."

The church as 'secular sanctuary jurisdiction'

Barba, the professor, was at the celebration party when Perez was finally able to leave the churchgrounds, and move back to Springfield with his family. The church was within a "secular sanctuary jurisdiction," he said.

More: Venezuelan migrants share their stories before leaving Martha's Vineyard. What they said

"He was there so long that the battery in his ankle monitor expired," said Barba. "He was safe because he was in a proper sanctuary — a house of worship."

Ironically, Barba said, the police station is next door to the church.Amherst police, he said, also cooperated with Amherst's sanctuary city policies.

"There is an inviolable quality in churches," he said. "While cities and towns don't have that same sort of cultural layer of protection, in this case, it worked out for Lucio. Folks were so happy to see him regain his freedoms."

Contact Rachael Devaney atrdevaney@capecodonline.com. Follow her on Twitter:@RachaelDevaney.


What's the meaning of sanctuary city? ›

A sanctuary city is a place that has decided to keep local resources to solve local problems. Some people think “sanctuary” means the city is harboring fugitives. That's a misunderstanding of the term. A better term than sanctuary might be local control or safe city.

What does being a sanctuary mean? ›

In general, a sanctuary city is a community with a policy, written or unwritten, that discourages local law enforcement from reporting the immigration status of individuals unless it involves investigation of a serious crime.

What does it mean to provide sanctuary? ›

A sanctuary, in its original meaning, is a sacred place, such as a shrine. By the use of such places as a haven, by extension the term has come to be used for any place of safety.

What is an example of a sanctuary city? ›

Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles are examples of sanctuary cities. More than 45 counties in California are considered to have sanctuary policies.

Which states are sanctuary states? ›

Only three states—California, Iowa, and Tennessee—enacted laws related to sanctuary policies. California A 110 prohibited law enforcement agencies from contracting with the federal government to house individuals as federal detainees for purposes of civil immigration custody.

How do you spell sanctuary city? ›

sanctuary city | Britannica. Check out these retro videos from Encyclopedia Britannica's archives.

What is an example of a sanctuary? ›

An example of a sanctuary is a church or temple. An example of a sanctuary is your home. The holiest part of a sacred place, as the part of a Christian church around the altar.

What is a sanctuary city in the United States? ›

Sanctuary city (French: ville sanctuaire; Spanish: ciudad santuario) refers to municipal jurisdictions, typically in North America, that limit their cooperation with the national government's effort to enforce immigration law.

Which place is being referred to as a sanctuary and why? ›

Sanctuary is a place where animals are केपटाउन very safely . There animals are protected . The place where the animals are kept in safe way is known as lodge.

What's another synonym for sanctuary? ›

What is another word for sanctuary?
refugesafe keeping
16 more rows

What type of word is sanctuary? ›

noun, plural sanc·tu·ar·ies. a sacred or holy place.

What is a religious sanctuary? ›

sanctuary, in religion, a sacred place, set apart from the profane, ordinary world. Originally, sanctuaries were natural locations, such as groves or hills, where the divine or sacred was believed to be especially present.

Can states enforce immigration laws? ›

State authorities can only enforce immigration law if they've been permitted by the federal government.

What is a sanctuary state for the Second Amendment? ›

Oklahoma. On April 26, 2021, Governor Kevin Stitt signed the Second Amendment Sanctuary State Act (SB 631) which prevents the confiscation or surrender of firearms, gun accessories, or ammunition from law-abiding Oklahomans, protecting the right to keep and bear arms guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

Does Texas have any sanctuary cities? ›

A federal appeals court on Tuesday largely upheld the Texas immigration law known as Senate Bill 4, which bans so-called sanctuary cities in the state. Among other provisions, the bill allows police officers to question the immigration status of anyone they arrest or detain, including during routine traffic stops.

Is New Jersey a sanctuary city? ›

Grewal, the Immigrant Trust Directive effectively declared New Jersey a “sanctuary state.”

How long is sanctuary city play? ›

Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes. An earlier version of this article misstated the play for which Martyna Majok won a Pulitzer Prize.

Can you be deported in a sanctuary city? ›

A new report documents data sharing between local jails and LexisNexis, enabling deportation to continue even in sanctuary cities and states.

Where does the word sanctuary come from? ›

The word is recorded from Middle English in the sense a holy place, a temple, or the inmost recess or holiest part of such a place; it comes ultimately from Latin sanctus 'holy'.

How do you use sanctuary in a sentence? ›

Sanctuary in a Sentence
  1. My family knows not to bother me when I am relaxing in my sanctuary.
  2. When the convict escaped from prison, he used one of his safe houses as a sanctuary.
  3. The animal sanctuary is a no-kill shelter that provides abandoned animals with safe homes.

Why do we need sanctuary? ›

The wildlife sanctuaries are established to protect the endangered species. It is quite difficult to always relocate the animals from their natural habitat, therefore, protecting them in their natural environment is advantageous. The endangered species are specially monitored in the wildlife sanctuaries.

What part of a church is the sanctuary? ›

The sanctuary is the front part of the church from where the Priest stands during Mass. It is usually elevated from the nave, where the congregation sits.

What is the antonym of sanctuary? ›

Opposite of refuge or safety from pursuit, persecution, or other danger. danger. peril. jeopardy. endangerment.

When did Chicago become a sanctuary city? ›

The city's status as a so-called sanctuary city dates back to 1985, when former Mayor Harold Washington issued an executive order prohibiting city employees from enforcing federal immigration laws. It became law in 2006, reaffirmed after the 2016 election of former President Donald Trump and expanded in 2021.

How many undocumented immigrants are in New York? ›

There are thought to be over half a million undocumented immigrants residing in New York City.
Participation in labor force.
OccupationNumber (estimate)As proportion of all workers
Other occupations163,0006%
Total undocumented labor force374,00010%
20 more rows

Is Minnesota a sanctuary state? ›

Minnesota made a sanctuary state for immigration enforcement purposes, and state and local officials restricted from cooperating with federal immigration enforcement efforts.

What are the duties of a person residing in a sanctuary? ›

Every person if he resides in the sanctuary be bound: To prevent the commission in the sanctuary against an offense. If someone believes that against this Act any offense has been committed then one should help in discovering and arresting the offender.

Which one of the following is a wild life sanctuary? ›

The correct answer is Bhimbandh. Bhimbandh wildlife sanctuaries are located in Munger district of Bihar.

What is the difference between national park and sanctuary? ›

Answer: A wildlife sanctuary is specifically designated to protect animals, while a national park is designed to protect both plants and animals. National parks are also typically larger than sanctuaries. Answer: National parks usually have a wider variety of animals, as they are meant to protect entire ecosystems.

How do you speak in sanctuary? ›

How to pronounce sanctuary | British English and American ... - YouTube

How do you say sanctuary in different languages? ›

In other languages sanctuary
  1. American English: sanctuary /ˈsæŋktʃuɛri/
  2. Brazilian Portuguese: santuário.
  3. Chinese: 避难所
  4. European Spanish: refugio.
  5. French: sanctuaire.
  6. German: Zuflucht.
  7. Italian: rifugio.
  8. Japanese: 避難所

Which is the closest antonym for the word devotee? ›

antonyms for devotee
  • critic.
  • detractor.
  • enemy.
  • opponent.
  • adversary.
  • antagonist.

What is a noun for sanctuary? ›

noun. /ˈsæŋktʃuˌɛri/ (pl. sanctuaries) 1[countable] an area where wild birds or animals are protected and encouraged to breed synonym reserve a bird/wildlife sanctuary.

What is a sanctuary Class 5? ›

“Sanctuary is a place of refuge where injured, abandoned and abused wildlife is allowed to live in peace in their natural environment without any human intervention.”

Can you claim sanctuary in a church in the US? ›

Do undocumented immigrants have legal sanctuary at churches? No, says Stephen Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell Law School. Officials with a warrant can arrest undocumented immigrants regardless of whether they're at a house of worship like a church, synagogue or mosque.

What was the right of sanctuary? ›

PLACE where criminals and political offenders could find refuge was called a Sanctuary. It is generally agreed that in this country the privilege of sanctuary was instituted on the recognition of Christianity.

Can a church prevent someone from entering? ›

When a ministry has reason to believe that a person will disrupt its service or activity, the ministry may either deny access or require the person to leave. If a group of demonstrators crosses your property line, you have the right to ask demonstrators to leave.

Is El Paso Texas a sanctuary city? ›

In a statement, the city council said even though El Paso is not considered a “sanctuary city,” they voted to join the effort because local leaders are “concerned with provisions in SB 4 that raise questions related to the compliance and integration of the proposed bill in current law enforcement operations.”

Are there any sanctuary cities in Ohio? ›

The ordinance was passed in May of last year, making Lebanon the first “sanctuary city for the unborn.” Nearly 50 other cities have passed similar ordinances across the US, according to the ACLU. Lebanon remains the only city in Ohio with a municipal abortion ban.

Is Sacramento a sanctuary city? ›

As a sanctuary city, Sacramento protects some illegal immigrants from being deported by limiting cooperation with federal immigration officials or ice.

Is Minneapolis a sanctuary city? ›

Although Minneapolis calls itself a sanctuary city, it's not yet the place where immigrants can lead full, healthy, thriving lives. Rochester, Northfield and other cities across Minnesota are offering municipal IDs, said Akhi Menawat, a member of MIRAC.

Is Texas a sanctuary state? ›

House Bill 2622 (Holland/Hall) makes Texas a Second Amendment Sanctuary State by protecting Texans from new federal gun control regulations.

What region of Texas is El Paso in? ›

El Paso is located within the Chihuahuan Desert, the easternmost section of the Basin and Range Region.

What is a sanctuary state for the Second Amendment? ›

Oklahoma. On April 26, 2021, Governor Kevin Stitt signed the Second Amendment Sanctuary State Act (SB 631) which prevents the confiscation or surrender of firearms, gun accessories, or ammunition from law-abiding Oklahomans, protecting the right to keep and bear arms guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

Is New Jersey a sanctuary city? ›

Grewal, the Immigrant Trust Directive effectively declared New Jersey a “sanctuary state.”

Is Minnesota a sanctuary state? ›

Minnesota made a sanctuary state for immigration enforcement purposes, and state and local officials restricted from cooperating with federal immigration enforcement efforts.

How many sanctuary cities are in the United States? ›

The resolution was followed the same year by an ordinance which prohibited the use of city funds and resources to assist federal immigration enforcement–the defining characteristic of a sanctuary city in the U.S. As of 2018, more than 560 cities, states and counties considered themselves sanctuaries.

Can a police officer ask your immigration status in California? ›

Q6: Can police officers ask me about immigration status? A6: Generally, the police have the right to ask about anything they want. You do not have to answer any questions about immigration status.

Is Lancaster PA a sanctuary city? ›

Some cities, like Lancaster, haven't officially announced their 'sanctuary city' status, though they make it clear that there would be no collusion between local law enforcement and the federal government in deporting undocumented residents and welcoming refugees.

Is Minnesota immigrant friendly? ›

Minnesota has a sizable immigrant community, much of which emigrated from Mexico and Somalia. Foreign-born individuals account for nearly one in ten Minnesotans, while 7 percent of residents are native-born Americans who have at least one immigrant parent. Across sectors, immigrants support the state's economy.

Is Spokane a sanctuary city? ›

In fact, Spokane is not a "sanctuary city".

Is Champaign IL a sanctuary city? ›

Ben Mueller of the Immigrant Services Organization in Champaign-Urbana, agreed. “They bring a lot of assets and talents to our community. They bring diversity to our community," Mueller said. Urbana is considered a sanctuary city, meaning city laws protect undocumented immigrants.


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