sanctuary cities

Texas Sanctuary Cities Crackdown May be Used as a National Template

By Peek & Toland on May 17, 2018

Governor Greg Abbott signed legislation that signaled a Texas sanctuaries cities crackdown in the summer of 2017.

The legislation proved controversial and sparked legal challenges. However, some commentators want to see it used as a national template.

Writing in The Hill, Jackson County Sheriff A.J. (Andy) Louderback, a four-term sheriff and past Sheriffs Association of Texas president, argued federal and local agencies should work closer together in immigration issues.

The new law is controversial because it allows police officers to ask the immigration status of people they pick up.

It also prevents local officials from defying detainer requests issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Officials such as sheriffs or police chiefs who fail to honor federal detainer requests to hold suspected undocumented immigrants face being hit with a fine of $4,000 or up to a year in prison. Sheriffs, police departments, Texas cities, and even college authorities can face civil penalties of up to $25,500 a day. Officials may even be removed from office under the law.

Texas Sanctuary Cities Crackdown

Will Texas Sanctuary Cities Crackdown Be a National Blueprint?

Louderback wrote about how local and state governments routinely cooperate with federal law enforcement officials in single every area of the law except for immigration. He wrote:

“Today when it comes to immigration enforcement hundreds of communities across the nation have prohibited information sharing between local police and Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE).”

Louderback said this approach is a break from what Congress intended when it enacted the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. The legislation states that a state, federal, or local government entity may not prevent another government entity from either sending or receiving information about an individual’s immigration status.

The article and the Texas legislation takes aim at so-called “sanctuary cities.”

Although the term is an imprecise one, some Texas jurisdictions have been branded sanctuary cities.

They include Austin where Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez pledged not to honor detainer request made by agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unless they relate to defendants held on serious criminal charges.

Austin police also vowed not to ask the immigration status on people they arrested in comments made prior to the enactment of S.B. 4, the anti-sanctuary cities legislation.

Louderback argued sanctuary city policies attract undocumented immigrants.

He said laws like Texas’ anti-sanctuary city law S.B. 4 will act as a deterrent.

“This law should be a model for other jurisdictions across the country when it comes to cracking down on sanctuary policies and boosting the relationships between state, local and federal law enforcement officials.”

As a Texas sheriff who works on U.S. 59, a major human trafficking corridor, Louderback said a working relationship between local and federal authorities was vital to tackling a major problem.

If you need help with an immigration issue, please contact our Austin-based attorneys at (512) 474-4445.

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Is Sanctuary City Crackdown Depriving Police of Funds?

By Peek & Toland on April 30, 2018

The sanctuary city crackdown has been a major part of federal government immigration policy under the Trump administration. However, questions have been raised about whether it is depriving local police forces of funds to fight crime.

In the fall of 2017, NPR reported on concerns about the non-payment of federal policing grants that police departments across the country rely on for equipment, training, and personnel.

Every year hundreds of millions of dollars is handed out by the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program (JAG). Typically grants are given out by the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30th.

That didn’t happen in 2017. By the end of October, the grants were yet to be handed out, NPR reported.

Sanctuary city crackdown impacts police funding

Sanctuary city crackdown hits police funds

The station quoted Mike Lawlor, undersecretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning in Connecticut. He was concerned about the delay. In 2016, Connecticut received about $2.6 million in JAG grants. Lawlor said:

“Every single state gets one of these grants and this year not a single state has gotten it and we have repeatedly asked the Department of Justice what’s going on. They consistently can’t or won’t answer the question so we don’t know. We assume it’s because they have concerns about sanctuary cities around the country.”

Chicago was at the center of a legal battle over the JAG grants. The Justice Department tried to insist that cities and counties receiving these public-safety grants comply with federal immigration policy. In particular, these jurisdictions should allow immigration agents to access their jails and give the feds advance notice when suspected illegal immigrants are about to be released from custody.

In September, U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber granted the City of Chicago’s request for a nationwide block on these grant conditions.

Notwithstanding the involvement of the courts, the grants have not been forthcoming.

Not only did the DOJ miss the disbursement date, but states were not even notified of the grant award, which usually happens in the spring.

Lawlor said it typically takes about six months from the date of the award until the check is issued. He said the issue also impacts southern states that don’t even have sanctuary jurisdictions.

NPR noted New Haven in Connecticut is considered a sanctuary city.  Typically, police do not detain suspects on behalf of federal immigration (ICE) agents or collect immigration status from suspects.

Austin in Texas exhibits similar sanctuary city characteristics in generally not complying with detainer requests to hold suspects.

At Peek & Toland , our immigration lawyers have been helping immigrants fight for their rights for decades in Austin and further afield. Please call us at (512) 474-4445.


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Federal Judge Derails Parts of Texas Sanctuary Cities Law

By Peek & Toland on January 23, 2018

A legal challenge against Texas’ controversial sanctuary cities law has left opponents questioning its full implications.

In August, U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia granted a preliminary injunction and blocked important provisions of Senate Bill 4, reported the Texas Tribune.

The law is intended to prevent sanctuary city policies in Texas. It forbids law enforcement officials like sheriffs, jail administrators and police chiefs from preventing a police officer inquiring about an arrestee’s immigration status.

The law would prevent local jurisdictions opposing federal detainer requests. It requires jail officials to honor all requests from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to hold inmates facing possible deportation for longer periods.

Texas sanctuary cities law under fire in the courts

Court dealt a blow to Texas sanctuary cities law

It forbids governments from adopting or implementing policies that limit immigration enforcement such as the one in place in Travis County where the sheriff will only comply with ICE detainer requests for people charged with serious offenses.

Garcia placed a temporary block on these measures. He argued a detainer request could violate a person’s Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. The judge said stopping officials from crafting policies was an infringement of the First Amendment.

In September 2017, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans allowed officials in Texas to partly implement the law while awaiting a full hearing of the appeal in November. The next month Mexico joined the suit against the law.

However, the judge didn’t block the power in the bill for police officers to ask about immigration status. Some opponents of SB 4 fear this measure the most.

A Latino advocacy group told The Tribune this measure was unlikely to lead to a massive change in the way local law enforcement operates.

Thomas Saenz is the president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).

MALDEF acted for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. He said these provisions are unlikely to alter day-to-day operations significantly. He said:

“These two provisions left in place largely replicate what is existing law … Judge Garcia made clear — that the rights and the ability of police to act on any information received extends only to turning that information over to federal immigration authorities.”

The Sanctuary City ban is controversial because it would criminalize officials who fail to comply with federal immigration law, we noted. This controversial law is likely to be fought in the courts for some time to come.

If you or a family member is subject to action by ICE agents, you should contact an experienced Austin cancellation of removal lawyer here to schedule a meeting.

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Lawsuits Are Filed over Texas Sanctuary Cities Act

By Peek & Toland on October 27, 2017

The recent Sanctuary Cities Act being drawn up in Texas is among the harshest of its kind in the country.

The legislation was enthusiastically backed by Governor Greg Abbott but is facing an uncertain future amid opposition from cities and legal challenges.

Austin and San Antonio have joined the list of cities suing the state of Texas over the immigration law which has been branded the harshest in the country.

An article in Think Progress noted San Antonio’s lawsuit was filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).

Lawsuit over Sanctuary Cities Act

Sanctuary Cities Act faces lawsuit

MALDEF is no stranger to bringing immigration lawsuits. The litigation was filed on behalf of the City of San Antonio and three nonprofits.

MALDEF argues SB4, which targets “sanctuary cities,” is unconstitutional.

Most controversially, SB4 opens up law enforcement officials who fail to comply with federal detainer requests to Class A misdemeanors.

The law was drafted with jurisdictions like Travis County in mind. In Austin, the new sheriff Sally Hernandez has implemented a policy to only comply with federal detainer requests in the case of serious offenders. The detainers allow people held in local jails to remain there for up to 48 hours while Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) checks their immigration status.

Officials who fail to comply with the Texas law can be punished with a fine of $4,000 or up to a year in prison. Cities, police departments, and even college campuses can face civil penalties of up to $25,500 a day. Officials can be removed from office under the law.

MALDEF said the new law contains numerous constitutional violations.

In Austin, Mayor Steve Adler announced the city would also be challenging SB4.

The mayor described the new law as a danger to residents and said victims seeking police help might no longer come forward.

Adler took an uncompromising stance on the new Texas legislation. He said:

“We want our day in court because for far too long the Texas Legislature has been playing political football with the safety of our city and now we get to move to a different forum. One of the main impetuses behind the city filing suit is the keen and earnest desire to keep this community safe.”

Texas’ new law against sanctuary cities is in line with national efforts but it goes even further. The federal government is also seeking to crack down on sanctuary cities but it is limited in its powers to defund them.

These are uncertain and frightening times to be an immigrant. If you need help on any immigration matter, call our Austin family immigration lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

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Sanctuary City Ban is Signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott

By Peek & Toland on September 7, 2017

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has taken aim at locations like Austin that protect immigrants from federal immigration arrests by signing a bill that amounts to a sanctuary cities ban.

On May 7, the Texas Governor signed a bill that bans sanctuary cities in his state. The main elements of the legislation are:

  • Criminal sanctions against local government entities and police departments that won’t comply with detention requests and other federal immigration provisions.
  • Civil sanctions levied against cities not in compliance.
  • A potential fine of $25,500 for each day the sanctuary cities ban is violated.

A report on CNN noted the legislation can bring a misdemeanor charge for police chiefs, sheriffs and constables in Texas who fail to comply with detention requests.

Sanctuary city ban is signed by Texas governor

Texas governor signs sanctuary city ban

Abbott’s office said these elected and appointed officials can even be removed from office once the measure is imposed on September 1. In a press release, Abbot said:

“As Governor, my top priority is public safety, and this bill furthers that objective by keeping dangerous criminals off our streets. It’s inexcusable to release individuals from jail that have been charged with heinous crimes like sexual assault against minors, domestic violence, and robbery.”

Travis County is the only jurisdiction in Texas with an active policy to resist detainer requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to hold defendants who may be undocumented immigrants.

Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez told CNN it was unfortunate that misinformation and fear allowed the sanctuary cities ban to pass.

Sanctuary city is a broad term used to describe jurisdictions with policies that limit involvement or cooperation with federal immigration authorities. There is no consistent set of characteristics to describe a sanctuary city. However, cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles in California have made no secret of their opposition to federal immigration policies and their lack of cooperation.

Many cities, counties and some U.S. states have informal laws and policies that are consistent with sanctuary positions.

Abbott said he vouched for the legality of the law, claiming it has already been tested at the United States Supreme Court.


However, opposition groups pledged to mount a legal challenge. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), immediately pledged to fight the law describing it as a blunder.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas said the legislation will allow racial profiling by untrained immigration agents and is unconstitutional in seeking to remove democratically elected representatives from office if the fail to comply.

The legislation mirrors national action. The Trump administration threatened to remove funding from nine sanctuary city jurisdictions including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and the State of California.

An article in Kaiser Health News warned programs to fight opioid addiction and domestic violence could be at risk from the measures.

Some police chiefs are in opposition to the sanctuary city ban, claiming it could widen a gap between police and immigrant communities, prevent victims coming forward and stop immigrants from helping them to solve crimes.

Research suggests crime is not any higher in sanctuary cities than other locations.

Peek & Toland can help you with a wide range of immigration matters. Please call us at (512) 474-4445 for help.


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Sanctuary Jurisdictions Continue to Deny ICE Detainer Requests

By Peek & Toland on August 15, 2017

The federal government is continuing to crack down on sanctuary jurisdictions in the United States. At the same time, these cities are pushing back by denying ICE detainer requests.

Detainer requests are made by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials who seek to place a hold on inmates who may be undocumented immigrants in local jurisdictions to allow them to be picked up for possible deportation action.

Some sanctuary jurisdictions like Travis County are resisting federal pressure and denying detainer requests.

A report in NumbersUSA found America’s sanctuary Jurisdictions turned down 47 detainer requests in a report issued in late March. They were issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. These included detainer requests for illegal immigrants with charges or convictions for domestic violence, sexual assault, and assault.

sanctuary cities defy ICE detainer requesrs

ICE detainer requests are defied by some jurisdictions

Details were provided in the Trump administration’s second weekly report that highlighted jurisdictions with policies that instruct officials not to cooperate with ICE agents.

The reporting period ran from Feb. 4 – Feb. 10. Nearly half of those rejected detainer requests were issued under the Obama administration several months earlier.

Cities in California as well as New York City, Washington, and Travis County which includes Austin in Texas declined the largest number of detainers since reports began in late January.

The report found of 24 more recent detainer requests under the Trump administration, sanctuary jurisdictions rejected three relating to inmates charged or convicted with domestic violence, 11 for assault and one for sexual assault.

A further nine people were charged with less serious crimes like drug possession, burglary, and identity theft.

Reports on ICE Detainer Requests Are Suspended

The Trump administration released reports on ICE detainer requests to ‘name and shame’ localities that declined to honor them.

However, the reports were temporarily suspended in April. Several jurisdictions questioned the accuracy of the data the New York Times reported.

The report was made possible under Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration issued in January. Some locations claimed they were unfairly labeled as being uncooperative.

Austin is in the front line of the sanctuary cities stand-off. New Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez pledged to only honor detainer requests for inmates who commit serious crimes. She has been singled out by Texas Governor Greg Abbott who is threatening to cut funds to Austin.

In April, Texas gave final approval to a bill that would give police officers sweeping powers to demand the immigration status of suspects, in a blow to sanctuary cities.

At Peek & Toland , our attorneys have been helping immigrants fight for their rights for decades in and around Austin. Please call us at (512) 474-4445.

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Judge Says Funds Governor Cut to Punish Sanctuary City Policies Would Have Funded DWI Enforcement

By Peek & Toland on June 9, 2017

A cut in funds by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to punish sanctuary city policies in Austin was not targeted at the relevant department, according to a judge.

Earlier this year, Abbott’s office vowed to cancel $1.8 million in grants to law enforcement programs, and the University of Texas’s campus.

The cancellation of the grant was in response to Travis Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s policy of preventing deputies from asking anyone they arrested about their immigration status. Hernandez will not honor federal detainer requests in holding undocumented immigrants in Travis county jails after the completion of sentences for minor crimes, even if requested to by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.

Both of these moves are seen as sanctuary city policies by the governor.

However, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, the county’s chief executive, said the money Abbott blocked does not fund immigration enforcement. She said the money is not immigration funds and none of it would have funded Hernandez’s department.

Cash cut targeted sanctuary cities policies

Abbott blocked money that would have financed drug diversion courts, DWI enforcement programs, and prostitution prevention according to a list Eckhardt tweeted.

An article in The Hill highlighted how Abbott sees Hernandez’s stance as being consistent with sanctuary cities.

Abbott pulled no punches in his response to the policies of the newly elected sheriff in Travis County.

Her so-called sanctuary city policies enraged the governor who threatened to slash state funding if Hernandez proceeded with policies intended to keep immigrant families together. In a letter to Hernandez, Abbott described the policy as shortsighted, dangerous, frivolous and reckless.

He has even threatened to remove elected officials who fail to comply with federal immigration laws, although the legality of this move has been questioned.

Sanctuary cities have also been targeted in the Texas legislature. However, there are signs the policy may backfire. In Harris County, the sheriff’s department has pulled out of a program that deputizes law enforcement officials to act as immigration agents.

Abbott’s aggressive stances comes as President Donald Trump threatens to pull federal funding from “sanctuary” cities and counties including Austin and San Francisco.

Federal retainers remain controversial. Last year, a judge in the Northern District of Illinois, invalidated detainer requests in a case that may have ramifications nationwide.

Three years ago, more than 100 local attorneys and academics signed a letter to Travis County officials warning their compliance with ICE detainers threatened to violate constitutional rights and open Travis County to potential legal liability.

Sanctuary cities and sanctuary city policies will continue to dominate political discourse over the next few months. If you or a family member is concerned about a detainer request or another aspect of immigration law, please call us today at (512) 474-4445.

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Sanctuary City Austin Takes Shape After Raids and Threats

By Peek & Toland on May 24, 2017

The idea of sanctuary city Austin is taking shape amid a series of raids aimed at undocumented immigrants and the targeting of the sheriff’s department by the Texas governor.

Major raids intended to round up undocumented immigrants have taken place across the country including in the Texas state capital.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) started a series of raids in February in Austin when they rounded up dozens of undocumented immigrants.

ICE said the operation was part of a planned sting aimed at targeting people who pose a threat to public safety, border security or the integrity of America’s immigration system.

Sanctuary city Austin takes shape

The skyline of downtown Austin

In an interview with NPR, Austin mayor Steve Adler expressed his commitment to the idea of sanctuary city Austin.

Adler pointed out raids took place across the country in places where law enforcement officers don’t necessarily cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

He said it was right that suspects who are picked up by police in Austin should not be quizzed on their immigrant status. He said.

“Victims in our community feel free to come forward and seek help from our public safety, regardless of who they are. Witnesses to events and to crimes feel safe coming to our police because they know they can do that safely … what our police and our professionals tell us is, is that if they’re going to keep this community safe, they have to be able to preserve that relationship.”

The idea of sanctuary city Austin has been ratcheted up in a war of words between Texas governor Greg Abbott and Sally Hernandez, the new Democratic sheriff in Travis County.

War of Words Defines Sanctuary City Austin

Soon after her election, Hernandez kept a campaign pledge to scale back help to federal immigration agents by detaining suspects who may be in the country illegally.

Hernandez says she’ll only cooperate if a detainee is arrested for serious crimes like murder, sexual assault or human trafficking.

Abbott said he would withhold funding to Travis County unless the policies are reversed.

The Texas governor told Hernandez that if she does not reverse her policy Travis County will be disqualified from receiving grant money from the Criminal Justice Division (CJD).

Texas lawmakers are supporting a bill that would cut state funding to “sanctuary cities,” or those with policies or rules that impede federal agents apprehending people who may be in the country illegally.

If you are facing potential deportation, please call our Austin immigration lawyers today at (512) 474-4445.

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The Impact of Legislation on Texas Sanctuary Cities

By Peek & Toland on May 11, 2017

Texas sanctuary cities are on the front line of the new, more restrictive approach to immigration that’s sweeping the nation.

While President Donald Trump has threatened to defund sanctuary cities nationally, Texas has also initiated legislation.

A bill that withholds dollars from state coffers for sanctuary cities cleared the Texas Senate in February.

Texas ACLU Executive Director Terri Burke told CNN he would fight the bill all the way.

Funding threat to Texas sanctuary cities

Texas sanctuary cities like Austin could lose funds

Under the terms of Senate Bill 4, law enforcement in Texas municipalities and on college campuses would have to hold onto a suspect while US Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) checks his or her immigration status. Failure to do so could result in funding being withheld.

If the legislation proceeds the first big fight could occur in Austin. Sally Hernandez, the new sheriff of Travis County has pledged to no longer cooperate with detainer requests from ICE and to keep immigrant families together.

When agents make these requests, they ask county jails to hold immigrants if the feds suspect they might be in the country illegally. These detainer requests are controversial because they are often made without a warrant.

The term “sanctuary city” is not a precise one. Some commentators have suggested Hernandez’s stance makes Austin the state’s first sanctuary city. However, there are other cities in the state that take on some of the characteristics of sanctuary cities.

These are cities that will not sanction the use of municipal funds to enforce federal immigration laws.

Often government employees in these cities are instructed not to inquire about the immigration status of people they come into contact with and instructed not to report undocumented workers.

Governor Warns Texas Sanctuary Cities

Texas governor Greg Abbott announced plans to withhold $1.5 million in state law enforcement grant funding from Travis County after Hernandez laid out her proposals in January.

The state has already paid $300,000 to Travis County but will be withholding the rest.

Hernandez has kept her line about detainer requests. She said by focusing local officers’ time and resources on illegal immigrants, they could be compromising the safety of those they are sworn to protect.

Although she will work with immigration officials on some policy areas, she said her department will not honor detainer requests.

The funds were revoked after Abbott declared a “sanctuary city” ban an urgent priority for Texas lawmakers.

Abbot wants to deny Texas sanctuary cities state funds and even to have the power to remove locally elected officials who fail to comply.

If you have an immigration issue, please call our experienced Travis County immigration attorneys at (512) 474-4445.

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Sanctuary City Crime Rates Are Not Higher than Elsewhere

By Peek & Toland on February 28, 2017

Sanctuary cities have come under increased scrutiny in recent months with a pledge by President Donald Trump to abolish them. However, a study of sanctuary city crime rates suggests the more liberal approach to immigration has not increased offending.

Research by the University of California released in 2016 said sanctuary city status does not impact crime.

The study was carried out by University of California, Riverside researchers along with Highline College in Des Moines, Washington.

Sanctuary cities offer some degree of protection to undocumented immigrants from federal crackdowns. For instance, police in these locations are not allowed to inquire about the immigration status of people they arrest.

Sanctuary city crime forms debate

Sanctuary city crime is a matter of debate

Government employees are instructed not to inquire about the immigration status of residents in these cities and told not to report undocumented workers.

These policies have been documented in Texas cities including Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Brownsville.

The latest research about sanctuary city crimes analyzed FBI crime data and other demographic information in 55 of the sanctuary cities listed by the National Immigration Law Center. The cities studied are located in 20 states and the District of Columbia.

The researchers looked at changes in the rates of violent crime, property crime, and rape in the sanctuary cities immediately after those communities passed policies more favorable to immigrants. While some cities saw rises in crime, others saw a reduction, while others saw no change in the crime rate.

Researchers said, taken together, the average change in crime rates after sanctuary city polices were introduced, was not statistically significant.

The researchers matched data from each sanctuary cities to comparable non-sanctuary cities in the same states. They compared the crime rates in the cities from 2000 through 2012. The researchers discovered some rates of property crime, violent crime, and rapes were slightly higher in sanctuary cities during certain years after the policies were adopted. However, the figures were well within the margin of error, making the relationship statistically insignificant.

The study is at odds with the claims of some politicians. Recently, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said crime has risen in “sanctuary cities” across the nation.

He told the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security that sanctuary city policies were allowing illegal immigrants to roam communities freely and to commit crimes.

During the election campaign, Trump campaigned against sanctuary cities.  The issue of sanctuary city crime became a hot topic after the death of Kate Steinle. The tourist was killed by a Mexican national in San Francisco in 2015. San Francisco is a high profile sanctuary city.

However, an NPR article stated Trump’s pledge to cut federal funding to these cities is complicated by the lack of clear definition of what a sanctuary city is.

While sanctuary cities have their roots in a faith-based movement to protect Central American migrants fleeing violence in the 1980s, there has been a more recent movement since the post September 11, 2001, crackdown on immigrants.

If you need help with an immigration issue please call our Austin family immigration lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

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