Already known as a refuge for people from other lands, New Haven and its mayor are seeking to extend voting rights to illegal immigrants and other noncitizens.

Mayor John DeStefano, a Democrat, introduced four years ago a first-of-its-kind program to give noncitizens, legal or not, city resident cards. Despite crackdowns elsewhere, he has forged ahead with proposals that he says encourage differences.

“We’re a place of differences,” he said. “We’re a place that sees a strength and places a value on welcoming folks from all over.”

Dozens of American cities including New York, San Francisco and Cambridge, Mass., take a hands-off approach to pursuing illegal immigrants. While advocates say they are distancing themselves from a broken immigration system, critics accuse them of flouting federal law as “sanctuary cities.”

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