National Press Club

Sanctuary cities debates at Club Newsmaker

December 15, 2016 | By Shelby Ostergaard |

Sanctuary cities -- municipalities that have refused to identify unauthorized immigrants to federal authorities -- were the subject of a debate at a Dec. 12 Club Newsmaker.

Jessica Vaughn of the Center of Immigration Studies said sanctuary cities "are illegal, and they don’t build trust.” She said the federal government relied on local officials to identify those in the U.S, illegally because it "cannot be in every city and every jurisdiction.”

“Any place that has sanctuary that goes against these laws is not only putting their community at risk, but are putting themselves at risk of federal prosecution,” Vaughn said. “It’s not legal issues or cost issues; the reason they have sanctuary is because they want to obstruct federal immigration law because they disagree with it.”

William Slack of the American Immigration Lawyers Association said that since slavery, states have not been compelled to enforce federal laws.

“The federal government wasn’t allowed to compel [the states]” to enforce federal law, only to not obstruct it," he said. “Each community needs to make its own decisions in these matters.”

Vaughn called on the federal government to cut federal funds to cities that refuse to cooperate with U.S. immigration authorities, while Slack said such actions "would be coercion.”