Sanctuary Cities and Dog-Whistle Politics

32 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2016 Last revised: 2 Jun 2016

See all articles by Christopher N. Lasch

Christopher N. Lasch

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Date Written: March 16, 2016


On July 1, Kathryn Steinle’s death on a pier in San Francisco re-ignited the long-running political debate over the wisdom of sanctuary city policies. This essay examines some of the rhetoric deployed in that debate, and in particular relies on Professor Ian Haney López’s work focusing on the use of “dog-whistle politics,” the practice of embedding coded racial appeals in a political message in order to promote policies of continued racial subordination.

Part One provides a brief recounting of the death of Kathryn Steinle and the immediate political response. In Part Two, I examine how dog-whistle politics played a role in the narrative framing of the debate, and in Part Three, I offer concluding thoughts.

The larger project begun here is an examination of the narratives used to set political agendas and control policy across the crimmigration arena.

Keywords: immigration, crimmigration, sanctuary city, detainers, dog whistle, rhetoric, narrative, politics, race, critical race studies

Suggested Citation

Lasch, Christopher N., Sanctuary Cities and Dog-Whistle Politics (March 16, 2016). New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement, Forthcoming, U Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No. 16-08, Available at SSRN:

Christopher N. Lasch (Contact Author)

University of Denver Sturm College of Law ( email )

2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States
303-871-6368 (Phone)

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics