Sanctuary Policies in the United States

Awarded Scholars:
Allan Colbern, Arizona State University
Project Date:
Jun 2018
Award Amount:

Sanctuary laws that shield undocumented immigrants from federal law have recently come into the national spotlight. On November 21, 2017, a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction permanently blocking President Trump’s anti-sanctuary executive order, which threatened to withhold federal funding from any sanctuary jurisdiction not fully complying with federal immigration laws. Despite increased attention, sanctuary policies remain misunderstood, poorly defined, and undertheorized.

Political scientist Allan Colbern will write a book in which he compares the lesser-known antebellum Northern personal liberty laws that protected runaway slaves from federal fugitive slave law and contemporary sanctuary policies protecting Central American asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants. The book will seek to explain the origin and proliferation of sanctuary policies across historical periods and groups, and their timing and spread within each period.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


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