| Welcoming America

What’s the difference between a Welcoming City and Sanctuary City?

A Welcoming City or County is one that joins the Welcoming America network and works across multiple sectors, such as government, business, and non-profit, to create inclusive policies and practices such as making it easier for entrepreneurs to start a business or having government documents available in multiple languages. Welcoming Cities are guided by the principles of inclusion and creating communities that prosper because everyone feels welcome, including immigrants and refugees.

There is no legal definition for a "Sanctuary city". Nevertheless, a commonality among cities that have adopted sanctuary-type policies is a desire to resist changes in the law that would require local criminal law enforcement agencies to do the federal government’s job of enforcing immigration laws. Many do this by preventing local officials from asking people about their immigration status. Other cities refuse to use local resources to detain immigrants. The main purpose for these types of policies is to comply with constitutional requirements and to protect public safety by maintaining positive relationships between local law enforcement and immigrant communities.

Studies have shown that immigrants are less likely to report crimes, or cooperate in criminal investigations, if they fear potential deportation as the result of routine interaction with local law enforcement agents. Even if politically contentious, these are policies are legally sound and are seen by many localities as good public safety policy.

While the term is not associated with our programming, some cities in the Welcoming America network have chosen to adopt what could be considered sanctuary-type policies to guide the actions of their law enforcement personnel, others have not. We stand in support of those cities. It is truly up to the city to determine if they should do so. Though they may share similar principles, self-identified “Sanctuary cities” are not necessarily Welcoming Cities and vice versa.

Welcoming America’s ultimate goal is to build more inclusive, prosperous communities. Communities create and implement what works best and is needed to achieve this goal; we support their efforts and the policies they choose to enact.

Learn more about Welcoming Cities