Sanctuary cities: What are they?

A federal judge has permanently blocked President Trump’s executive order to withhold funds from cities that limit how much local law enforcement officials cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick of California said the Trump administration lacks the authority to impose new conditions on spending that have already been approved by Congress. He said Trump’s executive order violates the Fifth and Tenth Amendments.

Trump targeted sanctuary cities with an executive order in January. That order, in part, called for the hiring of additional immigration agents and moved to strip federal grant money to cities that “harbor” undocumented immigrants.

What are sanctuary cities?

While the exact specifications can vary, sanctuary city policies overall limit just how much local law enforcement officials comply with federal immigration authorities.

San Francisco, for example, passed an ordinance in 1989 that prohibits city employees, funds or resources from assisting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in enforcing federal immigration law unless it’s required by state or federal law.

It also passed an ordinance that limits when law enforcement officials can give ICE notice that an immigrant has been released from a local jail and prohibits law enforcement officials from cooperating with detainer requests from ICE.

Berkeley, near San Francisco, is reportedly the original sanctuary city. It passed a resolution in 1971 that protected sailors who wanted to resist the Vietnam War.

It’s difficult to nail down a concrete number of just how many cities are considered to be a sanctuary for immigrants – some cities have an ordinance or policy in place; others do not.

Aside from cities, five states – California, Oregon, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont – have enacted laws that limit how much police can contribute assistance to federal immigration agents, according to the New York Times.

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) argues that counties – not just cities – should establish sanctuary policies for undocumented immigrants.

How are they viewed?

The debate about sanctuary cities intensified in July 2015 when Katie Steinle, 32, was killed as she strolled along the San Francisco waterfront with her father. Steinle was fatally shot by a man with a criminal record who had slipped into the U.S. multiple times illegally. 

A California jury acquitted the man accused of shooting Steinle of the more serious charges, including murder, involuntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon. Jose Ines Garcia Zarate was only convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. 

While he is expected to be deported, the Justice Department is considering bringing federal charges against him.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed a roomful of federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials earlier this year and criticized cities, like Philadelphia, that are "giving sanctuary" to criminals. He asked them to "reconsider the harm they are doing to their residents."

ILRC argues that local law enforcement jurisdictions do not have a “legal obligation to assist with civil immigration enforcement, which is the responsibility of the federal government.”

“A local decision to offer resources to federal immigration enforcement authorities is completely voluntary,” the legal organization said in a 2016 report.

ILRC called Trump’s threat to restrict federal funding of sanctuary cities “purely retaliatory in motivation.”

Many mayors of these cities have also bucked the threat and continued to affirm protection for immigrants.

"We are not going to sacrifice a half-million people who live amongst us, who are part of our communities, whose family members and loved ones happen to be people in many cases who are either permanent residents or citizens,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said last year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @K_Schallhorn.