Sanctuary, Well-Being, and the Impact of DACA: Philosophical Perspectives on Sanctuary Cities


November 30- December 1, 2017| Associate Professor of Philosophy, Serena Parekh

Serena Parekh is collaborating with colleagues across the university on a project related to Boston’s “sanctuary cities” policy (Berna Turam, Sociology and International Affairs; Martha Davis, Law school; Alisa Lincoln, Health Science and Sociology; Carlos Cuevas , Criminal Justice; Amy Farrell, Criminal Justice; Betul Eksi, Sociology). The research team was awarded seed funding through the Northeastern University Global Resilience Institute (GRI).

Sanctuary cities refer to local jurisdictions that choose not to cooperate with federal efforts to enforce immigration restrictions. Boston became a “sanctuary city” when it unanimously passed the Trust Act in 1994. This act prohibits Boston police from detaining anyone based on their immigration status absent a criminal warrant. In practice, this means that all residents of Boston can be assured that when they interact with the police – by reporting a crime, helping the police as a witness, or even if they get a speeding ticket – they will not be deported if they are not legally present in the country.

The project Professor Parekh is involved with specifically uses the concept of sanctuary cities to consider ways that cities might become more resilient as they respond to various forms of oppression, human rights violations, and other unjust exercises of power worldwide. Their research is guided by the following research question:

In what ways do sanctuary cities impact perceptions and experiences of safety, health and inclusion not only for residents who might avail themselves of sanctuary, but for other residents as well, particularly members of marginalized social groups?

To answer this question, they will be examining law, philosophy and conducting interviews with experts and stakeholders in the metro-Boston area, including leaders of cultural centers and religious organizations, city agencies, and community groups. The goal of these key informant interviews it to learn how policy makers and direct service providers understand the role of sanctuary cities in their constituents’ or clients’ perceptions of safety, well-being, and health.


Public Lecture| Shelley Wilcox, November 30, 2017

This talk explores the moral issues associated with local sanctuary policies. I examine three arguments in favor of sanctuary policies. I examine three arguments in favor of sanctuary policies- the public safety, civil disobedience, and collective resistance arguments- and i defend the latter. In doing so, I address several important issues that have received scant attention in the philosophical literate on migration, including migrant detention and deportation, the criminalization of migrant subjects, and the militarization of national borders.

Workshop Participants, December 1, 2017