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Demos and LatinoJustice PRLDEF Release Framework and Recommendations to Empower State and Local Governments and Institutions to Provide Sanctuary for Immigrants

New Report Provides Overview of Legal Tools for State and Local Governments and Institutions to Establish Sanctuary Policies for Inclusive Local Democracies

New York, NY – Demos and LatinoJustice PRLDEF released a report designed to equip state and local jurisdictions and institutions with much-needed guidance to establish community policies that welcome and protect immigrants. The report, titled “Sanctuary, Safety, and Community – Tools for Welcoming and Protecting Immigrants through Local Democracy,” is available in English and Spanish.

The report comes at a critical time when threats of deportation for our nation’s immigrants are at an all-time high. Demos is a national, nonprofit public policy organization and LatinoJustice PRLDEF is a nonprofit civil rights legal defense and education fund.

Katherine Culliton-González, Senior Counsel at Demos, and co-author of this report, explains, “President-elect Trump’s proposed policies and his xenophobic rhetoric represent a real and present danger to the communities that have embraced millions of immigrants into the fabric of their local democracies, including undocumented persons and their families. During this time of crisis, immigrants across the country without the support of local jurisdictions face real threats of racial profiling and deportation. This report provides a roadmap of legal actions that cities and local institutions can and should take to establish sanctuary communities that protect undocumented immigrants and their families from unconstitutional abuses of power.”

Joanna E. Cuevas Ingram, Associate Counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and co-author of this report, observes, “This preliminary report reveals the ways in which the U.S. constitutional system of federalism, Due Process, Equal Protection and anti-discrimination laws may support a wide range of inclusive, local, pro-immigrant rights policies.  While local governments themselves are “preempted” from assuming federal immigration powers, they are not prohibited from creating policies which generally include immigrant communities as equal members of society, and they can resist unconstitutional commandeering or coercion from the federal government on similar grounds.  Recent case law suggests that local governments cannot be required to stop, arrest and detain people for the purpose of deportation.  In fact, local governments should refrain from doing so at the risk of engaging in racial profiling and violating Equal Protection, among other constitutional rights and legal obligations under civil rights and anti-discrimination law.”

Currently, approximately 400 jurisdictions – cities, states and counties – as well as numerous educational institutions, churches, and hospitals have taken steps to create sanctuary communities using the policies outlined in this report, but this is just the beginning. State and local governments and institutions should step up and seek to establish policies that protect immigrants. The report outlines the types of protections that are likely to be legally available for immigrants, as well as the rights of local communities to establish inclusive democracies, constitutional protections against racial profiling and protections that can be applied to schools.

The report concludes with a series of policy recommendations within the power of state and local governments to protect undocumented community members, including:

  • Policies prohibiting immigration enforcement in public schools,
  • Policies prohibiting immigration enforcement in churches and hospitals,
  • Inclusive programs (e.g. access to identification cards or health care),
  • Policies shielding information about immigration status from federal authorities,
  • Policies limiting use of community resources (including local police) for enforcement of federal immigration law,
  • Policies providing public funds for legal services for undocumented immigrants, and
  • Policies protecting immigrants and others from discrimination.

About Demos

Demos is a public policy organization working for an America where we all have an equal say in our democracy and an equal chance in our economy. For more information about Demos visit

About LatinoJustice PRLDEF

LatinoJustice PRLDEF, originally established as the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) in 1972, is one of the foremost national nonprofit civil rights legal defense and education funds working to advance, promote, and protect the legal rights of Latina/os throughout the nation. Our work is focused on addressing systemic discrimination and ensuring equal access to justice in the advancement of voting rights, housing rights, educational equity, immigrant rights, language access rights, employment rights, and workplace justice, seeking to address all forms of discriminatory bias that adversely impact Latina/os. For more information on LatinoJustice, please visit:


Demos Contact: Kate Berner[email protected]