It is important to note that there is no specific legal definition for a sanctuary city, but broadly, the term refers to municipalities that don’t let local law enforcement agents cooperate with federal immigration enforcement in an effort to shield its community of undocumented immigrants from deportation. We have listed frequently asked questions and misconceptions regarding the Tucson Families Free & Together Initiative:

The City of Tucson declared itself an “immigrant welcoming city” in August, 2012, and Mayor Rothschild reaffirmed that stance in December, 2016. According to official statements, such designation is merely an expression of support for Tucson’s immigrant community – an effort to “facilitate a community-wide dialogue” including “public community conversations on the subject of racial profiling.” As part of its immigrant welcoming efforts, the city also offers resources for “permanent residents and those seeking to become naturalized U.S. citizens.”

Nevertheless, Tucson’s “immigrant welcoming” status does nothing to prevent our friends and neighbors from being deported. Sometimes, the Tucson Police Department (TPD) assists federal officials in apprehending our undocumented friends and neighbors who have not committed any crime. In fact, TPD has done so since Tucson declared itself a ”welcoming city.” (Link to Duff Lyall’s ACLU press release in 2016). Whether called ”sanctuary” or some other term, this ordinance takes bold steps to ensure that our city actively prevents community members from being split apart from their families, their livelihoods, and their Tucson community simply because they lack proper papers.

Short Answer: No

Explanation: The Trump Administration has threatened to take away a specific category of federal grant from those cities deemed to be “sanctuary cities.” The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant is a federal formula grant awarded each year to almost every state, county, and city throughout the country. The Tucson Police Department receives approximately $350,000 each year to support its programs.

Nothing in this local ordinance would violate the terms of the Byrne grant. This is because nothing in the ordinance violates federal law, including the relevant portions of 8 U.S.C. § 1373. Yet even if the Trump Administration were to assert that Tucson is violating federal law, several federal judges have recently struck down such conditions on the Byrne grants. In separate lawsuits filed by the City of Philadelphia, the City of Chicago, the City of San Francisco, the State of New York, the State of California, and the National Conference of Mayors (of which Tucson is a member), several federal judges throughout the country have come to the same conclusion: the Trump Administration cannot coerce local governments to enforce federal immigration laws by placing conditions on federal Byrne grants.

Short Answer: No

Explanation: SB 1070 is the flagrantly anti-immigrant state law passed by the Arizona legislature and signed by Governor Brewer in April, 2010. Since 2010, federal courts have struck down most of the law’s provisions. One section of that law still remains in force.

The remaining portions of SB 1070 require local police officers in Arizona to make “a reasonable attempt . . . to determine the immigration status” of certain people that they pull over or otherwise detain. It also requires local officers to call federal immigration authorities in certain circumstances. This local ordinance would not prevent TPD officers from doing anything that they are required to do under state law. This ordinance is designed to introduce clear rules and transparency measures whenever state law requires a local officer to get involved in federal immigration matters. But this local ordinance would not hamper an officer’s ability to “determine the immigration status” of those individuals specified by SB 1070.

Short Answer: No

Explanation: Proposition 300 was a statewide proposition approved by Arizona voters in 2006. It is still in force today, and it limits certain state services to those who are U.S. citizens or who “possess lawful immigration status.” This is the state law, for example, that prevents undocumented immigrants from paying in-state college tuition at state universities and community colleges, even if they have lived in Arizona for most of their lives. While we hope to see the day when this blatantly anti-immigrant state law is overturned, nothing about this city ordinance conflicts with Prop 300.

Short Answer:  No

Explanation: The Trump Administration has asserted that some sanctuary cities are in violation of a specific federal law:  Section 1373 of Title 8 of the United States Code (often cited as 8 U.S.C. § 1373). Originally passed by Congress in the 1990s, this statute prohibits cities from “restricting” the sharing of “information regarding the citizenship or immigration status . . . of any individual.” In other words, under this law, a city cannot tell its employees that they cannot share immigration status information with ICE or Border Patrol.

This ordinance does not violate that provision for at least two reasons:

  1. The ordinance would prohibit TPD officers from asking people about immigration status in many instances, but it would not prohibit an officer from sharing such information with federal authorities in the event an officer obtains such information. In other words, it would limit how and when a TPD officer can acquire immigration status information; it would not restrict the officer’s sharing of that information in the limited circumstances when an officer is required to ask for it.
  2. As recently as November, 2018, federal courts have determined that this federal law violates the United States Constitution. So even if a judge were to find this ordinance in violation of Section 1373, local judges in Arizona are likely to come to the same conclusion as other judges: that the federal law itself is illegal. A local law cannot be said to violate a federal law if the federal law is itself illegal.

Short Answer: No

Explanation: Immigration is purely a matter of federal law. This local city ordinance would alter how local officials communicate with and collaborate with federal immigration officials. The local ordinance would not create a new path to citizenship. Only Congress can do that. If you are concerned – as we are – that our current immigration system is broken, we urge you to contact our senators and congresspersons (link to their websites)

Short Answer: No

Explanation: Lacking immigration status is not a crime and this ordinance deals only with how TPD officers deal with people suspected of lacking immigration status. In fact, being an undocumented immigrant is sometimes compared to breaking the speed limit – they are both civil infractions of law (not crimes). Limiting an officer’s ability to cooperate with federal immigration officials in no way limits the investigation of actual crimes. Just to be clear, though, the proposed ordinance clarified it right up front: “Nothing in this Section shall limit or otherwise restrict an officer’s ability to establish reasonable suspicion or probable cause of criminal activity.” And, as the Tucson City Council put it in a unanimously-approved resolution in December, 2016: “Suspicion of unlawful presence in the United States is not a legal basis for a stop or detention.”

Short Answer: No

Explanation: Sometimes, citywide ordinances call for the expenditure of additional city funds, the issuance of city bonds, or the raising of city taxes.  This ordinance does none of that. It doesn’t build any new buildings, it doesn’t create additional city bureaucracy, and it doesn’t provide for new city services. It simply creates new protocols for TPD officers and other city employees. At most, this ordinance would require some additional training for TPD officers. This would be nothing more than the routine annual training already required by the state entity that certifies local police officers (known at AzPOST, or the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board)

Short answer: No

Explanation: This ordinance would not affect TPD’s ability to pursue criminal investigations, regardless of the immigration status of the perpetrator. Similarly, this ordinance would not affect how prosecutors will prosecute a crime, what type of criminal sentence ordered by a judge, the terms of a person’s probation, or how someone might be treated while in prison or jail.