We need to be more careful with this idea of ‘sanctuary cities’ – for a few reasons:
1). These regions are not safe havens for all undocumented immigrants – only those without criminal records. The mayors of New York City and Los Angeles stated they would protect the “good and law-abiding immigrants” from deportation. The law is not race-neutral and objective in its application. As long as an immigrant is found guilty of a crime, they are no longer ‘law-abiding’ and can be deported. Not to mention the fact that we re-entrench white supremacy by classifying who is good/innocent (historically white) and who is bad/guilty (historically black). The logic running beneath ‘sanctuary cities’ only normalizes the gaze of the State and makes it stronger.
2). So-called sanctuaries are rooted in the criminal justice system. When Immigration Customs Enforcement requests that an immigrant be detained, the county can decline because they have ‘discretion’ and it is ‘voluntary’. In doing so, the justice system can present itself as a hero – a savior that steps in to rescue immigrants from despair. New York City and Los Angeles are ‘sanctuaries’, but this does not change the fact that their police departments are notorious for racism. This reminds me of that video of a black woman who was pulled over by a cop who then gave her an ice cream cone. On a different scale, the police in ‘sanctuary cities’ can say: we could’ve deported you, but we are nice enough not to. It becomes easier to fall into a Blue Lives Matter perspective where the violence of policing is overlooked.
Undocumented immigrants are still exploited and terrorized by the police in these ‘sanctuaries’ – but they are supposed to be grateful that they won’t be deported back to a land destabilized by U.S. corporations and armed forces … which likely motivated their migration here in the first place? Oh, how nice of us!
3). As long as there is racism, sexism, and capitalism – there is no such thing as a ‘sanctuary’. We should be under no illusions as to who our enemies are. In contrast to what many are saying: the real ‘showdown’ is not between the federal government and local governments in court – but between the oppressors and the oppressed in the street.