From Sanctuary to Freedom: Cities in Resistance — Webinar Recap

While the frame of sanctuary cities is designed as protection for undocumented and migrant residents, it also offers an opportunity to engage us all in critical questions about how we shape our democracy and local places: What makes a city a sanctuary? Sanctuary for whom and from what?

Immediately after the presidential election, mayors across the country took a bold public stance, declaring their cities to be “sanctuary cities,” and vowing to protect their cities' residents against the potential harsh policies that are anticipated to come from the new federal administration and Congress. Many community organizations are using a broader Rebel Cities framework, as well as the newly-launched #FreedomCities, which redefines what safety and freedom truly mean for communities. 

Elected officials, government agencies, residents, non-profits, grantmakers, and local businesses all have a role to play in shaping cities that are safe for all residents. Philanthropy can leverage existing organizations working on cross-cutting campaigns like immigration reform, economic development, and affordable housing to build upon emergent work that addresses the threat to undocumented residents. Although large urban centers and more progressive public figures have been leading on sanctuary cities, under-resourced and conservative smaller towns and rural areas are grappling with similar immigration issues that need more exploration.

In order to help funders learn more about these issues, NFG hosted "From Sanctuary to Freedom: Cities in Resistance," featuring the following speakers:

Key Takeaways 

  • Regional-scale movement building, organizing, leadership development, and training are critical to building a broader movement framework that connects Sanctuary Cities and immigration justice to intersectional issues that impact low-income, communities of color, LGBTQ people, and others marginalized groups.
    • The intersections between immigration rights, racial justice, criminal justice, affordable housing, gentrification, economic justice, and gender justice is critical in this political moment, and philanthropy can play a critical role in supporting multi-issue strategies.
  • Building partnerships with community groups, local governments, and elected officials is crucial in strengthening a growing movement of resistance to federal level immigration policies.
    • Elected officials can work with community organizations in cities to coordinate trans-local campaigns and make impacts on the state and national level.
    • Many cities that are not officially “sanctuary cities” are aligned with similar values and are working at the city level to pass policies that protect immigrant and communities of color.
    • An example of a successful place-based strategy that has brought together a region is King County’s Inclusive Communities Pledge, which has been signed by 70 elected officials from cities across the county.
  • Support grassroots leaders and elected officials with training, leadership development, networking, and the development of a community of shared practice.
    • Groups like Bay Resistance and the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) have developed and distributed Know Your Rights materials, and have led large-scale trainings on organizing, direct action, and community rapid response strategies for ICE raids.
  • There are different interpretations of what makes a true sanctuary city, but policy demands for the City of Denver by the Colorado People’s Alliance provide an example:
    • No ICE Holds – prevent local law enforcement from taking individuals into custody on behalf of ICE detainer requests
    • No ICE Notifications – prevent local law enforcement from providing ICE with the locations and custody release dates of individuals suspected to be undocumented
    • No Proactive Communication – prevent local law enforcement from collecting and sharing information with ICE on an individual’s place of origin, citizenship status, or immigration status
    • Honor Sensitive Areas – protect schools, courthouses, probation offices, and other sensitive locations from immigration agents waiting to detain people without a warrant
    • Create an Immigrant Legal Defense Fund – help people pay for legal services and representation to fight against deportation and navigate the naturalization process
  • How do we expand the watered down and narrowed sanctuary city frame, sparking new frameworks like Rebel Cities and Freedom Cities that address all policies negatively impacting marginalized communities?
    • Sanctuary city policies do not protect Black immigrants from the mass criminalization and incarceration policies that affect all Black people, especially since many do not think of the African diaspora as an immigration issue.
    • Nor do sanctuary city policies protect the LGBTQ community and other groups that are disproportionately impacted by police violence.
    • Some cities are taking a divest-invest approach to shift funding away from heavy policing towards other critical services that benefit low-income neighborhoods, immigrants, and people of color. 
  • Further ideas for funders:
    • How could our philanthropic institutions further support local rapid response funds or legal support services in partnership with other funders, donors, and government/public sector resources to support immigrant communities?
    • What role can philanthropy plan in connecting, networking, convening, and connecting national, state, regional, and local groups in places to collectively work together or align local strategies that build power?

Webinar Slides and Recording