In April of 2018, federal agents from Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) arrested 225 undocumented immigrants in one week in the state of New York. 163 of these arrests were made in New York City, a “sanctuary city.” What protections does a sanctuary city actually offer undocumented immigrants? What are the limits to these protections? How do these policies impact immigrants, their families, and their communities?

In the spring of 2018, CUP collaborated with Teaching Artist Diamond James and public high school students from Bushwick Leaders’ High School for Academic Excellence to investigate these questions. Students got out of the classroom to survey their community, interview key stakeholders working on the issue, and create their own visions for sanctuary cities. The crew gathered what they learned and created Seeking Sanctuary, a booklet that teaches others about NYC’s sanctuary city policies.

Students debuted their project at the Living Gallery in Bushwick where they presented their booklet, demonstrated their interview skills, and shared their creative process.

Get your own booklet here!

What People Are Saying

“Before I didn’t know what a sanctuary city would truly look like, although there are some people who say a sanctuary city doesn’t really exist. But I think we can make an effort to really make a sanctuary city.” – Kiara Montero Valdez, student

“My experience has been great! It wasn’t at all what I expected I was getting into … But on the first day when I went in, the first thing we were doing, after being introduced to the topic, was writing skits and talking about our own ideas of what we thought about the topic… It was a very good experience.” - Angelica Sanchez, student

“These young ladies, for them to say they feel stronger, that they feel better, it shows that a program like this is not only needed in schools but also citywide initiatives … How powerful is it that they were able to create a pamphlet and … make connections when they see something on the news or read something in the newspaper and say ‘Wow, that affects my community, this affects my situation.’ I think that if we get more programs like this, they’re going to be unstoppable.” - Carlotta Pope, classroom teacher

Resources & Links

Bushwick Leaders’ High School for Academic Excellence will prepare ninth through twelfth grade students from the Bushwick Community, regardless of prior academic performance, to become active leaders with an emphasis on academics, college preparation and technology.

Funding Support

Major support for this program was provided by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and Council Member Antonio Reynoso.

Special Thanks

Clair Beltran, Julia Ehrman, Jeneuse Guela, Michaela Rahimi, Sada Spence, Jennifer Anne Williams, and Stephanie Yee


  • CUP
  • Teaching Artist
  • Diamond James
  • Project Lead
  • Fielding Hong
  • Project Support
  • Frampton Tolbert
  • Bushwick Leaders’ High School
  • Students
  • Kelly Faber
  • Katiana Montero Valdez
  • Kiara Montero Valdez
  • Arleen Polanco
  • Lisa Robles
  • Angelica Sanchez
  • Principal
  • Catherine Reilly
  • Assistant Principal
  • Carolyn Gabriel-Green
  • Dean
  • Avery Beauford
  • Classroom Teacher
  • Martin Abrams