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Why ‘Sanctuary Cities’ Are a Target for Trump: QuickTake Q&A

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Donald Trump’s November victory owed little to the largest U.S. cities, which voted against him in force. So far in Trump’s presidency, there’s no sign of warming relations. Elected leaders in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Seattle and other major cities have vowed to stand up to Trump by continuing to withhold their cooperation from U.S. immigration-enforcement efforts. Trump signed an executive order that threatens to block federal funding to such "sanctuary cities," setting up a state-federal legal battle that lost no time in reaching the courts.

While there’s no official legal definition, the label generally applies to cities (or counties, or other jurisdictions) that declare they won’t assist in immigration enforcement and deportation efforts. The phrase has been used for decades by county and municipal governments that have policies offering some level of welcome to undocumented aliens. These policies were introduced in the 1980s in response to a movement of hundreds of U.S. churches and synagogues to provide safe haven for Central Americans fleeing civil conflicts. One of the first big cities to join was Los Angeles, where the city council in 1985 voted to oppose the deportation of law-abiding Central American refugees. Other early adopters were Berkeley, California; Cambridge and Brookline, Massachusetts; Madison, Wisconsin; and Takoma Park, Maryland.