What is a Sanctuary City?
There is no agreed upon definition, though in general terms ‘Sanctuary Cities’ do not share residents’ information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). As this is a self-designated term, “Sanctuary” has been used to describe localities that issue statements of welcome and localities that do not comply with ICE requests.
Does Virginia have Sanctuary Cities?
No. Virginia has cities such as Richmond and Alexandria that have declared themselves to be “inclusive.” However, there are no localities in Virginia that are “sanctuaries.” Virginia cannot have Sanctuary Cities because the Commonwealth is bound by the Dillon Rule, which means that no locality can have a law that violates state law. In Virginia, everyone who is processed through the criminal justice system has their fingerprints sent to the Department of Homeland Security. Because of this automatic information sharing, no locality can be a “Sanctuary.”
Do Sanctuary Cities protect gang members from prosecution?
No. Sanctuary Cities do not shield people committing crimes. People who commit crimes still face the same charges, same sentences and punishments. In fact, crimes are more likely to be reported and witnesses are more likely to cooperate with law enforcement in Sanctuary localities.
What is the purpose of a Sanctuary city?
Declining to share residents’ information with ICE allows undocumented individuals and their families to interact with law enforcement without fear of deportation. Victims are more likely to report crimes. Drivers in fender benders are more likely to remain at the scene. People in need are more likely to seek the resources available for their families. Witnesses are more likely to come forward.
In fact, Sanctuary Cities have seen a reduction in crime and an increase in reporting of crimes. They keep our neighborhoods safer for all residents. But remember — Virginia cannot have Sanctuary Cities. For now, the whole conversation is a red herring.