Sanctuary City and the Laws in New York

Jason Goldman
March 28, 2024
Sanctuary City

Table of Contents

The massive inflow in migrants to the United States and more specifically New York City has led many government officials and civilians alike to look more closely at the intersection of sanctuary city laws and criminal offenses. In short, sanctuary city policies tend to restrict or limit cooperation between federal authorities, local law enforcement, and immigration and custody agencies.

Is New York City’s Sanctuary Policies Protected by the 10th Amendment?

When it comes to the immigration battle and conflicting policies between the federal government and localized cities or municipalities, the state itself tends to have the authority. Hence, the tenth amendment does not necessarily allow the federal government to override state law, order, and policy in this realm.

New York City’s Sanctuary City Policies

Labeling New York City as a “sanctuary city” is more of a loose umbrella approach to encompass the city’s various policies aimed towards protecting immigrants and migrants. 

Generally, these policies work to protect “non-citizens” when they might otherwise end up in the cross hairs of immigration authorities. Hence, an arrest can lead to a conviction and a conviction, all things being equal, may sometimes lead to deportation or detention if an individual is not a citizen.

However, sanctuary city policies expand beyond the criminal realm – indeed, protections are put into place which encourage non-citizens to report crimes if they are a victim or seek medical help if they are injured, all without the fear of being turned over to immigration authorities. 

Executive Orders and Precedent in New York

Decades ago, long before the current migrant surge, New York was at the forefront of sanctuary policies. In the 1990's, these executive orders remained in effect with the election of each new mayor. However, in the 2010's, these orders became actual city laws, which greatly expanded and codified the city’s efforts to protect non-citizens. Hence, a major provision of this law included a significant restriction on detainer requests – which otherwise allowed law enforcement to hold individuals on behalf of ICE for future deportation. The law also eliminated an ICE field office which was set up within Rikers Island.

ICE and New York City Criminal Defense

Despite various executive orders and city laws, ICE still can and does arrest individuals who they believe are in the country illegally. Yet, as explained above, the identification of these individuals has become more difficult for ICE due to the limitations within a sanctuary city.

Likewise, ICE no longer enjoys the same assistance in detaining these individuals when they have otherwise been arrested or convicted of a crime. Instead, ICE typically has to obtain some sort of judicial warrant to move ahead with detaining and ultimately looking to deport such individuals outside of the criminal justice system.

Finally, because some serious and violent crimes automatically put non-citizens within deportation territory, it is critical that a criminal defense attorney with a non-citizen client carefully consider various plea options which will protect the individual from these consequences. Hence, while a certain plea for a standard citizen may look favorable, that same exact resolution may end up leaving a non-citizen subject to mandatory deportation proceedings if picked up by ICE in the future. This is specifically applicable when dealing with both federal and state felony level crimes.

Know Your Rights with ICE

Your rights include:

  • A right to immigration and criminal defense counsel during any and all proceedings against you.
  • A right to receive medical care pursuant to New York's sanctuary city laws.
  • A right to report a crime in which you were a victim without the fear of the authorities reporting your immigration status to the federal government.

If you or someone you know is facing prosecution and may be at risk of deportation, contact us immediately.