Welcoming Cities? Understanding sanctuary in securitised states 

Nearly four billion people live in cities globally. One fifth are migrants. With access to state services increasingly restricted, 'sanctuary cities' are on the ascent, enacting localised policies to support migrants. Welcoming Cities? maps national policy developments alongside the history of city-sanctuary movements; and offers in-depth empirical explanation of securitisation policies and city-sanctuary practices in Toronto, San Francisco and Sheffield. The research will develop a theory of emerging alternative political cultures, opening interdisciplinary dialogue on why urban innovations matter for migration governance.

Welcoming Cities? is a three year research project funded by the Leverhulme Trust and led by Dr Rachel Humphris. The project is the first international comparative project analysing city-level responses across Canada, UK and USA to national anti-migrant attitudes.

Governments in Canada, the UK and the USA have recently adopted the policy goal of creating a hostile environment for non-citizens, defined as migrants with precarious legal status. Non-citizens' access to services are increasingly restricted and many face state mandated exclusion from education, healthcare and housing, creating 'internal borders'. Alongside these exclusionary national policies, an outpouring of volunteerism and alternative discourses have emerged to challenge this approach, particularly in cities. The term 'sanctuary movements' has emerged for policies and practices that welcome non-citizens in urban communities.

Balancing a national 'hostile environment' and localised 'sanctuary movement', urban policy-makers and frontline bureaucrats make life-changing decisions about non-citizens' access to the welfare state. But what is the role of cities in the governance of global migration during rapid demographic and political change? What are the driving mechanisms behind sanctuary practices? What are city-level actors' motivations, justifications and moral standpoints?

Welcoming Cities? examines such questions, by engaging with sanctuary movements in a historical and comparative perspective through in-depth empirical research. It will compare the history, implementation and impact of sanctuary movements in Toronto (Canada), Sheffield (UK) and San Francisco (USA).

The project will work towards a theory of urban sanctuary, uncovering its key elements and how they interact with securitised social policies across different national contexts. The project aims to contribute to growing literature on global migration governance; citizenship in liberal democracies undergoing rapid demographic change; and global urbanisation.