What is a sanctuary city?

On behalf of Cynthia Ceballos of Ceballos Legal Consulting LLC posted in blog on Thursday, June 22, 2017.

It’s a term you may have heard a lot recently: Sanctuary city. With all the talk across the country about illegal immigration and deportations, people have been using the phrase frequently.

What exactly is a sanctuary city? Is New Orleans considered a sanctuary city? How does it affect residents? Today we’ll answer some common questions on this topic.

Sanctuary cities explained

The term “sanctuary city” is not a legal term. While some jurisdictions are trying to pass legislation that would either specifically deem certain areas "sanctuaries," or block areas from being a "sanctuary," it is not an official designation.

Rather, it is a term to describe cities that don’t fully comply with federal immigration efforts, according to the USA Today.

Some federal officials are trying to fight sanctuary cities, while also being vague about what the title actually means.

Is New Orleans a sanctuary city?

The short answer is yes. Mayor Mitch Landrieu is one of many across the country who received a letter from the Justice Department urging him to comply with federal immigration rules.

“We’re happy to work with the president, but they have to understand what they're talking about. You can't accuse us of violating the rules if you haven't told us what the rules are,” Landrieu told the USA Today.

What this means for New Orleans residents

In February, the New Orleans determined its police force would not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

This doesn’t mean residents cannot be deported or face penalties in New Orleans. Federal immigration enforcement agencies can still operate within the city.

Like so much about immigration law, this is a complicated topic. There are no specific rules when it comes to sanctuary cities, and living in a "sanctuary" does not mean you're safe from deportation.