Despite the efforts of the Obama administration to reduce the number of so-called “sanctuary cities” in the United States, more than 270 municipalities still refuse to cooperate with immigration agents in handling cases involving undocumented immigrants. According to a year-end report by the Department of Homeland Security, sanctuary communities were responsible for freeing over 2,000 illegal immigrants, instead of turning them over to federal authorities in the 2016 fiscal year.
Moreover, these cities are well on their way to releasing even more undocumented immigrants for the first two months of the 2017 fiscal year, which began on October 1, 2016. The report is part of the DHS’s annual immigrant enforcement update, which also noted a clear uptick in immigrants trying to cross into the U.S., in what has been described as a spike of migration.
However, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are apprehending fewer undocumented immigrants inside the country, as the Obama administration tries to keep its promise of only deporting undocumented immigrants that have committed serious crimes.
In 2016, ICE arrested an estimated 114,000 undocumented immigrants, the lowest number thus far in President Obama’s administration, representing just 1 percent of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. More than 90 percent of arrested immigrants either had a history of criminal convictions, ties to criminal gangs, or were considered risks to national security. Many of them were also new arrivals or found defying existing removal orders.
Security analysts believe that these stats make the number of immigrants released by sanctuary cities even more worrying, as their deportation orders meant they were prioritized for removal, either as national security risks, individuals with criminal records, or because they ignored recent deportation orders.
But communities like Philadelphia and Cook County in Illinois may see their continued efforts to refuse cooperation with the feds cut short. As President-elect Donald Trump takes office this month, it’s highly likely for him to make good on his pledge to repeal all of Obama’s executive actions on immigration and withhold funding to cities defying immigration orders.
This hard line stance is supported by Trump’s choice for attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), who has advocated penalizing sanctuary cities by blocking federal funding and even filing criminal charges against local officials.
President Obama has repeatedly called on sanctuary cities and communities to cooperate with the feds, emphasizing how communities refusing to turn over wanted undocumented immigrants are making their cities less safe and causing problems for immigration authorities.
In Texas, a number of sanctuary cities are also resisting the federal government. Counties like Travis and Harris, where the cities Austin and Houston (which have sizable immigrant population) are located respectively, are mobilizing against an incoming Trump presidency. If you or a loved is concerned about how potential changes to Texas immigration policies under the new administration, sit down for a consultation with the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Contact our offices at (512) 215.5225 to speak with an immigration law attorney.