Understanding Sanctuary Cities

How Cities Protect Their Residents

Our Partnership

In recent years, there's been a growing movement among a variety of municipalities to attempt to disentangle their own law enforcement efforts from federal immigration enforcement tactics. We decided to explore the different manifestations of this trend, along with the legal and policy justifications behind it, as part of a collaboration with academic partners like the University of California, Irvine. We believe the research and ingenuity achieved by collaborating with expert partners is needed to understand and preserve sanctuary cities.

About Our Research

We leverage cross-institutional collaboration to address some of today’s most pressing challenges, producing interdisciplinary solutions that influence policymakers to effectively serve the public good. From Stanford to UChicago to NYU, we’ve refined our collaborative process through years of mutually beneficial relationships with institutions nationwide to understand and address challenges like climate change, HIV and youth homelessness.

DU’s current research efforts have been featured in news outlets like The New York Times. They include…

  • exploring the effects of felony disenfranchisement.
  • employing lasers as the medium for quantum science.
  • using theatre to heal and rehabilitate inmates.

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About the Project

In this project, we examined the series of reforms undertaken by so-called "sanctuary cities" in the effort to ensure immigrants aren't deported when they come into contact with the criminal justice system. Led by law professors working at the intersection of immigration and criminal law, we began with a look at the Trump administration's large-scale deportation plans and campaign to "crack down" on sanctuary cities.

With that in mind, we then explored the diverse methods cities have used in the hope of protecting their residents and refusing to participate in the current immigration agenda. Once those methods were outlined, we then analyzed the legal and political justifications behind these policies, and the way those justifications evolved over time. In doing all this, we developed insights into how sanctuary cities can be effective and protected in a hostile political environment.

The project was a collaboration between professors at the University of Denver, University of California Irvine, University of Minnesota, University of Tulsa, Lewis & Clark Law School and New England Law.

Discover Research at DU

Christopher Lasch

Christopher Lasch has dedicated his career to protecting his clients' constitutional rights. Beginning his career as a Louisville, Kentucky public defender, he's tried civil rights cases in both state and federal courts. At the University of Denver, where he serves as a professor for the Sturm College of Law, his research focuses on the availability of constitutional remedies in federal habeas and state postconviction litigation, and on the intersection of criminal and immigration law.