Achieving LGBTQ Equality Through Litigation, Legislation, Policy, and Public Education

Press Release

Asylum & Immigration

CA Sanctuary Cities Case Gets Boost from LGBT Groups


February 16, 2018

Lauren Gray, NCLR / (215) 983-3099



California Sanctuary Cities Case Gets a Boost from LGBT Groups

Groups file brief on irreparable harms to health and safety, and cite law enforcement opposition to Trump’s executive order


SAN FRANCISCOThe National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Transgender Law Center (TLC), Centro Legal De La Raza, and El/La Para Translatinas filed an amicus brief this week in City and County of San Francisco v. Trump, the California case challenging Trump’s executive order attacking sanctuary cities. These organizations work on behalf of LGBT immigrants, including asylum seekers and victims of trafficking. The case is currently pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Sanctuary policies ensure that all community members, especially those most prone to exploitation and abuse, can report crimes and discrimination, and access essential services regardless of their immigration status. These policies essentially serve as don’t-ask policies regarding immigration status for witnesses, victims, and low-level criminal arrests. The brief argues that Trump’s Executive Order would force local jurisdictions to undermine public safety by creating a permanent underclass of people who are afraid to report crimes or even discrimination and harassment to public officials. These harms are not only irreparable, they are intolerable in communities like San Francisco and Santa Clara, home to some of the largest immigrant and LGBT communities in the nation.

“Trump’s attack on communities like San Francisco and Santa Clara prioritizes dangerous and discriminatory immigration policies over public safety,” said NCLR Senior Staff Attorney Amy Whelan. “At NCLR, we’ve worked with client victims of severe domestic violence or rape who, because of sanctuary policies, felt safe calling the police and seeking the medical care and help they needed. When communities trust each other and can work together, everyone is safer.”

California is home to one-quarter of the nation’s 43.2 million immigrants. Immigrants comprise 30 percent of the San Francisco Metropolitan Area population and 37 percent of the Santa Clara, San Jose, and Sunnyvale Metropolitan Area—which is the second largest community of immigrants in the United States. 

The brief details the irreparable harms communities would suffer if forced to abandon sanctuary policies, including harms to public safety, public health, and the ability to combat discrimination and other forms of abuse, all of which are compelling government interests. It cites the more than 60 law enforcement leaders who have spoken out about how the elimination of such policies makes it harder for them to do their job and keep communities safe: “If a portion of the public is afraid to report crimes and testify, the police and prosecutors cannot effectively investigate and prosecute criminal activities, including violent crimes.”

Also included in the brief are personal stories, such as from Guatemalan immigrant Danny Sigui who witnessed and reported a murder in Rhode Island. After testifying, state officials reported Sigui’s immigration status to federal authorities, and he was subsequently deported. Segui stated, ““[i]f I had known they would take my liberty, that they would take my children away from me, that they would put me [in immigration detention], I would [not have reported the crime or testified at the killer’s trial].” 

In the underlying cases, the City and County of San Francisco and Santa Clara County filed federal lawsuits against President Donald Trump and members of his administration challenging his January 25, 2017 Executive Order threatening to deny all federal funding to state and local governments that fail to comply with Trump’s immigration enforcement plan. The lawsuits, which were consolidated, challenge the President’s authority to unilaterally impose conditions on federal funds—a power the Constitution places exclusively in the hands of Congress—as well as the blanket denial of all federal funds, the vast majority of which have no connection to immigration or law enforcement. The district court ruled in favor of San Francisco and Santa Clara and permanently enjoined the portion of the Order regarding federal funding. That order is currently on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where the amicus was filed.


Attorneys at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP represent the amici organizations.


To read a copy of the brief, click here.


The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

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