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City leaders do not consider Tucson a "sanctuary city"

Posted at 10:43 PM, Jan 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-26 12:32:43-05

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - On Wednesday President Donald Trump signed executive orders regarding immigration, one of them targeting "sanctuary cities."

The order calls for cutting off federal funding to the so-called sanctuary jurisdictions. 

Sanctuary city is a term used to describe jurisdictions that don't cooperate with federal immigration officials. Defining a sanctuary city can be tricky because there is not one universal definition. That means determining how many there are in the U.S. is tough, but there are research groups that have made lists of sanctuary cities across the country.

Is Tucson a "sanctuary city"? It depends on who you ask, but city leaders say no. 

City Attorney Mike Rankin says he read President Trump's order, and he does not believe that the city is at risk of losing federal funding. Rankin says Tucson complies with the specific federal statute cited in President Trump's order, which relates to the sharing of information with federal immigration officials.

While they may not consider it to be a sanctuary city, Tucson leaders have historically been welcoming to immigrants. In December the Tucson City Council passed a resolution reinstating that idea, saying the city would not comply with mass deportations, among other things. 

At a discussion of the resolution, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said Tucson is "immigrant welcoming," but not a "sanctuary city." He said the term has no definition and is used to enflame passions on both sides. 

"The term sanctuary city is being tossed around by those who want to wear it as a badge of honor, and by those who want to use it to demonize cities as unlawful," Rothschild said. 

"Tucson is a city of laws, and the most fundamental of those laws are civil liberties and human rights," Rothschild said. 

The sanctuary movement began in the 1980's when a large number of immigrants came to the United States from Central America. Last week Southern Arizona congregations came together to support those threatened with deportation, offering churches as places of sanctuary. 

As of now, churches are designated sensitive locations by U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement. That means that agents have a policy that directs them to avoid them. Critics, however, say sanctuary policies allow churches to help immigrants break the law and remain in the country illegally.

Some cities, like San Francisco, proudly declare themselves as sanctuary cities. 

Sanctuary city policies sparked controversy in 2015 when a San Francisco woman was killed by a Mexican national who had been released from jail even though there were federal requests to detain him. 

The Tucson Police Department has posted it's policy on how officers handle immigration laws.