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Lawmakers Gather In New York For First-Ever Sanctuary Cities Convening

Conference intended to accelerate national efforts to move sanctuary policies

NEW YORK – On Monday and Tuesday, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Local Progress gathered lawmakers and activists from across the country to begin planning a national strategy against the Trump administration’s growing anti-immigrant agenda. During the Conference, this group outlined an agenda that equips municipalities to pass new sanctuary policies and bolster existing ones in the face of increased immigration enforcement.

Just days after taking office, Trump issued several immigration-focused executive orders, one of which included a directive to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities. Despite the threat, scores of jurisdictions from across the nation are working to protect the rights of immigrant communities. From passing legislation to limit cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration agents to curtailing the sharing of personal data with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—many municipalities are stepping up their efforts to counter the administration’s unduly harsh policies.

The sanctuary cities convening served to fuel this movement by connecting lawmakers from across the country to share best practices and develop multi-city strategies to defend sanctuary policies. The event, hosted by Borough of Manhattan Community College, was organized by New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Local Progress, a national network of hundreds of local legislators committed to sustainable, inclusive, and progressive cities.

A series of panels and small group breakout sessions included discussions on detainer policies, litigation strategies to challenge federal and states anti-immigrant action, local organizing strategies, and a tour of New York City’s pioneering access to counsel program for unaccompanied minors. Conference participants included Speaker Mark-Viverito, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), New York City Councilmember Brad Lander, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, and Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, along with more than 50 city council members, county supervisors, school board members, and other local elected officials.

In tandem with the conference, the Center for Popular Democracy released a toolkit, Protecting Immigrant Communities: Municipal Policy to Confront Mass Deportation and Criminalization, which gathers lessons and best practices from cities who have passed sanctuary policies in recent years. The toolkit serves as a resource for lawmakers interested in enacting sanctuary policies in their localities.

Sarah Johnson, Co-Executive Director of Local Progress, released the following statement in response:

“Trump may have thought he would eliminate sanctuary cities with his Executive Orders, but in fact it has been the opposite: existing sanctuary cities have become stronger, and many more have joined their ranks. Now is the time to provide guidance for those seeking to create a sanctuary in their own town, county, or city. This conference is a first step, but we have a long road ahead, and Local Progress will make every effort to support lawmakers looking to help immigrants in their communities.”

Melissa Mark-Viverito, Speaker of the New York City Council, also released a statement:

“Immigrants have contributed to the growth and success of our country since inception so it is no surprise that cities are leading the charge in challenging the escalating attacks on our immigrant communities. Through this conference, we have created a network of lawmakers committed to finding new and innovative ways to support immigrant communities by establishing or strengthening sanctuary city policies in their jurisdictions.  While the federal government continues to routinely violate the rights of immigrants through indiscriminate immigration enforcement, local governments must serve as a bulwark against a deportation machine that serves only to destabilize families and our economy.”

Helen Gym, Philadelphia Councilmember-at-Large, also released a statement:

“With immigrants facing unprecedented and overwhelming threats, we have a responsibility as local lawmakers to stand up for our communities and ensure everyone feels safe and welcome. But no one city and no one lawmaker can do it alone. We must lean on each other and come together as one to defeat the dangers we face. I am proud to be standing with other lawmakers from Local Progress to make our communities strong.”

Greg Casar, Councilmember for Austin, Texas, also released a statement:

“As we face some of the greatest challenges to our democracy our country has ever encountered, it is cities who are stepping up to defend our targeted communities. Local leaders are doubling down on pro-immigrant, sanctuary practices, and we are finding new and creative ways to keep immigrants safe. Now is the moment to bring those efforts together and build a coordinated strategy across cities. Together, we must form a unified front that can stop the forces of xenophobia and hate once and for all.”



Local Progress is a network of progressive local elected officials from around the country united by our shared commitment to equal justice under law, shared prosperity, sustainable and livable cities, and good government that serves the public interest. Local Progress is staffed by the Center for Popular Democracy.


The Center for Popular Democracy promotes equity, opportunity, and a dynamic democracy in partnership with innovative base-building organizations, organizing networks and alliances, and progressive unions across the country. CPD builds the strength and capacity of democratic organizations to envision and advance a pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial justice agenda.


Media Contact: 

Asya Pikovsky, apikovsky@populardemocracy.org, 207-522-2442

Autumn Dunn, adunn@populardemocracy.org, 216-224-6861