How “Sanctuary Cities” can Legally Refuse to Comply with Mandatory Federal Immigrant Reporting Laws

Under Federal law, local and state governments are required to share information about immigrants’ legal status or citizenship with federal authorities. One of these requirements involves reporting any immigrant who has committed a municipal crime with a maximum year-long sentence. These include petty crimes or misdemeanors such as shoplifting trespassing, initial instances of domestic violence, and simple assault. In past administrations, these immigrants would have been reported by local municipalities, but deportations would have been rare. However, under President Trump, even legal residents have been labeled as “aggravated felons” and have been deported. Moreover, “sanctuary cities” who refuse to comply with this mandate have been threatened with the loss of federal funding.

The city of Denver has a found a legal loophole to avoid complying with federal immigrant reporting requirements, while avoiding the loss of funds from the federal government. In the past, all municipal crimes carried a maximum sentence of 365 days. Now, only the most serious offenses, such as continuous domestic violence and violence assaults, carry a maximum year-long sentence. Other lower crimes such as initial domestic violence, trespassing, and shoplifting would result in only a maximum of 300 days in jail. This change in sentencing laws allows Denver to still be eligible for federal tax dollars, yet removes Denver from the “business of immigration enforcement”
-By Timmy Yip, J.D.