A legal scholar weighs in on local governments (think Boston) and churches that are creating sanctuaries for refugees:
While many cities have already begun to declare themselves sanctuary spaces for the undocumented, in fact there is currently no body of law or judicial precedent to which they are appealing.
“There’s really no legal definition of what sanctuary means,” explained Pham. (Even the most recent 1983 Code of Canon Law no longer refers to the practice.)
A bizarre result is that definition of the term “sanctuary” will end up coming from the executive branch.
“The President is threatening to withhold funding from sanctuary cities,” Pham said. “When he writes an executive order to do so, he’s going to have to define what it means.”
Some religious institutions might consider claiming that the declaration of sanctuary is an exercise of the rights afforded to religious organizations under the First Amendment. But that tactic will be of limited use to those seeking sanctuary, Pham said.
Such a claim, he explained, “is going to be resolved through a legal process through the courts, months later. It won’t be resolved then and there. And by that time the undocumented person may have already been arrested and deported.”
Pham also pointed out, “The housing of undocumented people is not necessarily covered under the First Amendment.”
So, the first thing to know, Pham said, is that to declare oneself a sanctuary “is mainly a symbolic statement of support.
In other words, no real help to the refugees, but lots of solace to the self seeking the superior life.