In 1989, San Francisco passed the “City and County of Refuge” Ordinance and the Sanctuary Ordinance, which prohibits City employees from helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with immigration investigations or arrests except when their help is required by federal or state law or by a warrant.

The Ordinance is rooted in the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980’s when churches across the country provided refuge to Central Americans fleeing civil wars in their countries. In providing such assistance, faith communities were responding to the difficulties immigrants faced in obtaining refugee status from the U.S. government. Municipalities across the country followed suit by adopting sanctuary ordinances.

In recent years, the Sanctuary Movement has experienced a rebirth, as grassroots organizations, faith communities and local government have stood firmly against repressive immigration proposals in Congress and immigration raids that separate families. In February 2007, Mayor Gavin Newsom reaffirmed San Francisco’s commitment to immigrant communities by issuing an Executive Order that called on City departments to develop protocol and training on the Sanctuary Ordinance.


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