This dissertation provides an anthropological analysis of governmental sanctuary city practices and municipal deportation practices in San Francisco, California and of the power struggles that lead to their formation, contestation, reform, and rational justification. This dissertation focuses on the discourse, practices, tactics, policies, protocols, and political maneuvers of city employees and officials of the municipal government in their relationships and power struggles with each other and with immigrant serving community-based organizations, undocumented immigrants, and state and federal officials. The dissertation examines the kind of municipal deportation practices city government officials implement when city officials, city employees, immigrant rights advocates, and undocumented immigrants pressure them to create, implement, and enforce 'sanctuary city' policies. It examines rational, legal, and moral grounds on which these actors formulate proposals for these policies, as well as define, codify, and justify municipal deportation practices and sanctuary city practices. 

Most accounts of providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrants explain the practices of religious movements engaging in religiously imbued resistance to the federal government and are characterized as facilitating a battle between church and state. Other accounts explain sanctuary practice as exceptional or extraordinary executive action taken by local governmental officials in defiance of the federal government to care for undocumented immigrants at the municipal level.

The thesis of this dissertation is that in San Francisco, during the period analyzed from 1980-2010, the legislation and enactment of governmental sanctuary city policy and practices functioned to achieve a governmental logic that Mancina terms "sanctuary power". This governing logic links municipal practices of serving and politically representing all "residents regardless of immigration status" with the mandates of the state and federal government. This included first and foremost, clarifying how municipalities might relate to the federal deportation regime by defining the conditions when it is appropriate and when it is inappropriate to initiate contact with federal immigration authorities and initiate the deportation proceedings of undocumented San Francisco residents. In so doing, both governmental sanctuary practices and municipal deportation practices became clarified, routinized, codified in policy, institutionalized, and normalized with the expressed purpose of "safeguarding the sanctuary city."


This dissertation is based on qualitative and quantitative ethnographic field research, archival research, and extensive public records requests and analysis. Funding for the completion of this dissertation came from the United States National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Vanderbilt University College of Arts and Sciences.