The increasing political salience of the sanctuary city has not yet been met with adequate philosophical examination of that concept. This article argues that there are at least two models of how the sanctuary city ought to be understood. The first model, the wholesale model, understands the sanctuary city as a standing check against federal overreach; the city ought to refuse to participate in deportation, even when the federal government is morally correct in how and when it deports. The second model, the piecemeal model, understands the sanctuary city instead as one particular site of resistance to particular forms of federal wrongdoing. This article does not seek to vindicate one model over the other, but argues that both models raise significant philosophical worries. More philosophical attention will help us understand both what the sanctuary city is and what might be said in its defense.
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