Sanctuary cities are those municipal jurisdictions that place limits upon their cooperation with the national government in its efforts to enforce immigration laws. Political leaders of these jurisdictions assert that they strive to reduce the fear of deportation and possible break-up of families, as well as working to encourage such immigrants to take advantage of social services and enroll their children in schools.

Attorney General Bill Barr has a different perspective of sanctuary cities that protect certain immigrants who are in the United States illegally. He states that sanctuary cities have policies that have been designed to permit criminal aliens to escape the arm of the law: “These policies are not about people who came to our country illegally but have otherwise been peaceful and productive members of society. Their [sanctuary cities’] express purpose is to shelter aliens whom local law enforcement has already arrested for other crimes. This purpose is neither lawful nor sensible.”

In February of 2018, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Deputy Director Thomas D. Homan‘s words reflected Mr. Barr’s perspective. For, he criticized Oakland, California, Mayor Libby Schaaf, who alerted the immigrant community of an approaching Northern California ICE enforcement operation in the Bay Area. Homan declared that the mayor’s publicizing of her suspicion of ICE operations heightened the danger to his officers, and it endangered the citizens by alerting the illegal immigrants with criminal records.

Now, two years later, Attorney General Barr has announced the implementation of federal efforts to enforce immigration laws. Speaking at the National Sheriff’s Association 2020 Winter Legislative and Technology Conference in Washington, D.C., Mr. Barr declared that the Justice Department would be filing lawsuits against localities that have sanctuary policies designed to actively obstruct the enforcement of federal immigration laws and “allow criminal aliens to escape.” These sanctuary cities, Mr. Barr emphasized, have the “express purpose” of providing an environment for aliens who have already been arrested for crimes other than entering the country illegally. Mr. Barr further announced that two federal complaints have been filed. One is against New Jersey, and another is against King County, Washington. Both cities have laws that actively work against the ability of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold and deport criminal aliens. Mr. Barr explained that although the U.S. Constitution allows states to not assist federal authorities in promoting immigration enforcement, active interference at the state level is illegal under Article IV’s “Supremacy Clause.”