Tucson Starts Down Path Of Becoming Sanctuary City

A petition is being passed around the city of Tucson to declare it an official sanctuary city, after a long history of protecting immigrant residents.

A sanctuary city is a city that offers protections to undocumented immigrants who live there. They are safe from deportation or prosecution that may happen in a non-sanctuary city under federal immigration law.

Tucson’s long history of protecting immigrants dates back to the 1980s. The Southside Presbyterian Church began the city’s tradition when they helped Central American asylum-seekers to find somewhere safe from their home’s conflicts in the city of Tucson.

While the city is not an official sanctuary city, the city council, along with the mayor, passed a resolution recognizing the city’s history and protection of undocumented immigrants in 2016. That resolution made Tucson an “Immigrant Welcoming City.”

Now, people are making moves to have the city declared a sanctuary city. However, City Attorney Mike G. Rankin pointed out in a memo that there could be legal issues with making Tucson a sanctuary city. A law on the books requires that the state attorney general must decide whether an ordinance, like the amendments detailed in the petition, violates state law. If such an ordinance does violate state law, the attorney general must file a lawsuit in the Arizona Supreme Court detailing the issues with the ordinance.

Supporters of the ordinance believe that it will not violate state law or federal law, especially because it was created with Arizona in mind, considering laws such as SB 1070. SB 1070 had a number of provisions, but was most well-known for having law enforcement check if someone was in the country illegally if they had reason to believe they were in a routine stop.

The ordinance does not mimic a sanctuary city ordinance that may exist in another state. This petition could either be adopted by the city council or voted into law by voters in the city. But first, the petition require 9,241 signatures.