“What is Migrant Hospitality?”

by Tara Tarana

Former American President Obama once said, “Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger—we were strangers once, too.” He was referring to extending hospitality to immigrants who arrive in the United States of America. 

The term hospitality derives from the Latin word hospitalia or hospitia. It refers to accepting and accommodating guests, visitors, and strangers into a community. To provide hospitality to individuals means to provide a sense of community and legal, political, social or economic support to them. Hospitality is an unofficial right which belongs to all human beings. Philosopher Immanuel Kant has written that hospitality is the “right of an alien not to be treated as an enemy upon arrival in another’s country”. This right, according to Kant, should only be restricted if the aim is to colonize a foreign land. 

When today’s governments in the Global North, however, speak of extending hospitality they often expect reciprocity and imply that migrants — i.e. the recipients of hospitality — owe them more than gratitude. Rather, governments expect to receive something in return — often cheap labour — when they accept migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. These expectations are subverting the original meaning of hospitality. 

When more than one million Syrians arrived at the doorstep of Europe, many European governments, such as Hungary and Denmark, raised the question if the refugees would abuse their generosity and pose a threat to the country’s prosperity. In response to these concerns, these governments opened their borders to only very few refugees and often forced them to “work for their allowance”, as stated by Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, if they wanted to stay in that country. Hostility, in many cases, eventually replaced hospitality. When governments are hostile towards refugees and migrants, it reflects the uneven power dynamics between host and guest and dismisses the idea that hospitality belongs to everyone. 

“What is Urban Sanctuary?”

by Vivian Whalen

Urban sanctuary refers to practices and policies typically associated with “sanctuary cities”. Sanctuary cities have emerged over the past decades in the USA and Canada as cities that seek to protect migrants and refugees from federal immigration enforcement. In addition, these cities seek to offer municipal services, including education and access to medical treatment to migrants independent of their legal status. While there is no one agreed-upon definition of what a sanctuary city is, these cities are meant to be areas where migrants and refugees do not need to fear deportation and are able to feel that they belong in the urban community where they live and work. 

There are a multitude of sanctuary cities spanning throughout the United States, with California as a whole becoming a “sanctuary state” in 2017 through the passing of SB-54. Conversely, many states have banned sanctuary cities, including Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, Iowa, and North Carolina. A major push against sanctuary cities was led by former President Donald Trump, who heavily criticized sanctuary cities during his time in office and during his re-election campaign. In January 2017, President Trump put forth an executive order meant to take away funding from sanctuary cities, ultimately being blocked by American courts

In a Canadian context, Toronto is considered to be the country’s first sanctuary city. In 2013 Toronto’s City Council passed legislation that gave its estimated 200,000 non-status inhabitants access to municipal services without fear of law enforcement. It’s been noted that municipal legislation did not explicitly refer to Toronto as a “sanctuary city” and this language was only introduced into official documents by Mayor John Tory in 2017. Aside from Toronto, the cities of Hamilton, Ajax and London in Ontario are considered to be sanctuary cities, along with Vancouver, Montreal, and Edmonton. 

In Canada, however, “non-status migrants continue to hold a well-founded fear of local police and, indeed, local authorities generally,” regardless of sanctuary-city policies being in place. There must be a continued effort in creating policies that make these cities more inclusive and less fearful environments for migrants and refugees. The goal of the Urban Sanctuary, Migrant Solidarity and Hospitality in Global Perspective partnership is, “to facilitate innovative and evidence-based policymaking at local and municipal levels for accommodating vulnerable migrants and refugees.” As our partnership grows, sanctuary cities and related policies and practices are being developed worldwide.

To learn more about the project visit our website: https://www.ryerson.ca/urban-sanctuary-solidarity-hospitality/