Sanctuary cities in the US is a decidedly hot-button issue that’s has had both sides digging in for the long haul. One of the first executive orders that President Donald Trump signed after his inauguration was one against such protective urban havens. Cities across the country with the designation have fought in the courts to ensure that protections for undocumented immigrants remain intact without losing federal funding.
In the term’s most basic form, cities that protect undocumented immigrants who might otherwise end up being deported have “sanctuary city” designation and limit their cooperation with the federal government and immigration enforcement.
Though the status has no legal definition, at stake is federal funding and, according to the order; “Jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply [with federal immigration laws] are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the attorney general or the secretary.”
Most sanctuary cities dot the more liberal bastions of the US, including Seattle, Portland, New York City, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and, ironically, the nation’s capital, Washington DC. For the most part, cities are holding firm, but one city, Lansing, Michigan, capitulated to the Trump administration and rescinded its status on Wednesday (April 12).
"It is a darn shame that after appearing to have a backbone and actually taking a stand on something that really matters, folks have decided to just throw it away," said Lansing councilwoman Kathie Dunbar to the Associated Press.
One major sanctuary city is San Francisco and it was the first to challenge the executive order at the end of January. The lawsuit alleged that Trump’s order is unconstitutional and is an overreach of his power. The city of San Francisco also claimed that it complies with federal law and that should preclude the government from cutting the more than $1bn in funding (most of it earmarked for programs for the poor, including healthcare) it receives annually.
Today, a federal judge will hear arguments in motions filed by both the city of San Francisco and Santa Clara County to temporarily block Trump’s executive order that could strip both of federal funding. In support of the motion an amicus brief, a document filed by non-litigants with a strong interest in the matter that can provide relevant arguments for the motions, was filed on behalf of tech companies.
Among the companies supporting the brief is Portland-based digital product agency Work & Co. Though the company does not have a physical San Francisco office, many of their most prominent clients, including Apple, Facebook and Google, are located in the Bay Area. Additionally, the company has a strong presence with the startup community, partnering with clients in and around the area.
"It's no coincidence that sanctuary cities in the US embrace immigrant communities and are leading hubs for business innovation," said Mohan Ramaswamy, partner at Work & Co. "When an open attitude is part of a city's DNA, it accelerates growth. To suddenly start enforcing aggressive immigration restrictions in San Francisco, New York, Portland and other cities would fly in the face of longstanding knowledge that diversity is critical to launching and running successful technology companies."
San Francisco and, by extension, the whole of Silicon Valley, is filled with immigrants who work in the vast technology sector, which is part of the area’s rich history. Apple was co-founded by a child of immigrants. Google was partly founded by a Russian immigrant. Ebay, Yahoo, Instagram and WhatsApp were founded by immigrants. According to the 2016 Silicon Valley Index, 74% of Silicon Valley computer and mathematical workers between the ages of 25 and 44 were not born in the US and net foreign immigration added more than 14,000 residents to the area.
For its part, more than half of Work & Co’s US-based staff are immigrants from countries such as Brazil, Iraq, India, Japan, France, Jamaica, Ukraine and dozens of others around the globe.
This is the third such brief that Work & Co has supported, along with a handful of other industry companies, such as Ideo, who have voiced public support. Work & Co also joined amicus briefs in New York and Hawaii to legally oppose the original Trump travel bans.
Ramaswamy noted that support of the brief is imperative to honor their staff and “channel frustration into action.”
It remains to be seen what the ruling will yield today, but in previous comments about California, according to the San Jose Mercury News, Trump said, “I don’t want to defund the state or city, I don’t want to defund anybody, I want to give them the money they need to properly operate a city or a state. [But] if they’re going to have sanctuary cities we may have to do that — certainly that would be a weapon.”