Sanctuaries As Equitable Delegation in an Era of Mass Immigration Enforcement

73 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2017 Last revised: 19 Nov 2018

See all articles by Jason A. Cade

Jason A. Cade

University of Georgia School of Law

Date Written: July 22, 2018


Opponents of — and sometimes advocates for — sanctuary policies typically describe them as obstructions to the operation of federal immigration law. This premise is flawed. On the better view, the sanctuary movement comports with, rather than fights against, dominant new themes in federal immigration law. A key theme — emerging both in judicial doctrine and on-the-ground practice — focuses on maintaining legitimacy by fostering adherence to equitable norms in enforcement decision-making processes. Against this backdrop, the sanctuary efforts of cities, churches, and campuses are best seen as measures necessary to inject normative (and sometimes legal) accuracy into real-world immigration enforcement decision-making. Sanctuaries can erect front-line equitable screens, promote procedural fairness, and act as last-resort circuit breakers in the administration of federal deportation law. The dynamics are messy and contested, but these efforts in the long run help ensure the vindication of equity-based legitimacy norms in immigration enforcement.

Keywords: sanctuary, prosecutorial discretion, equitable discretion, harboring, delegation, Arizona v. United States, Padilla v. Kentucky, mass immigration enforcement, U visas, federalism, local, state, crimmigration

JEL Classification: K14, K23, K33, K40, K41, K42, D73, J61, F22, L22

Suggested Citation

Cade, Jason A., Sanctuaries As Equitable Delegation in an Era of Mass Immigration Enforcement (July 22, 2018). 113 Northwestern University Law Review 433 (2018)., Criminal Justice, Borders and Citizenship Research Paper No. 3053609, University of Georgia School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2018-40, Dean Rusk International Center Research Paper No. 2018-09, Available at SSRN: or

Jason A. Cade (Contact Author)

University of Georgia School of Law ( email )

225 Herty Drive
Athens, GA 30602
United States
(706) 542-5209 (Phone)


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