Illegal Border Crossings Today:

Symbols of people migrating to a map of the United States

7 Lesser-Known Sanctuary Cities in the United States

When the term “sanctuary city” is mentioned, the names which most frequently come to mind are San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, or even Seattle. However, there are other metropolitan areas that have adopted sanctuary policies, which encompass a range of restrictions or limitations on cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Even though they are prohibited by federal law (8 USC § 1373), some local leaders have chosen to enact laws, regulations, or policies that compromise public safety by shielding criminal illegal aliens, a decision that endangers the lives of American citizens, legal immigrants, and even the illegal aliens in whose communities those criminals are most likely to reside.

However, there are approximately 600 lawless sanctuary jurisdictions, the majority of which have arisen in the last two decades. The following are seven cities that stand out because they are outliers in terms of being pro-sanctuary in what are Republican or Republican-leaning states. Whether due to historically liberal leadership (Atlanta) or religious influences that tend to skew pro-immigrant (Salt Lake City, Cincinnati), the following areas have chosen a course different from the states in which they are located.

For more information on the impact of lax immigration enforcement policies, please visit FAIR’s Criminal Illegal Aliens page.

Citiscape of Anchorage, Alaska


Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, has not permitted inquiries to be made about immigration status since Mark Mew took over as chief of the Anchorage Police Department in 2010.

In the last decade, the city has become a designated refugee resettlement city and, while avoiding the label “sanctuary,” it does classify itself as a “welcoming” city. In 2014, it even became a member of the Welcoming Cities project, a coalition of municipalities that have a hands-off approach to immigration enforcement.

Atlanta, Georgia citiscape


Atlanta has been a sanctuary city since the city council passed a resolution in 2017 declaring that the city is not responsible for “immigration affairs” and that it would not participate in the 287(g) agreement program, which deputizes some local police to enforce federal immigration law.

In 2018, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) ended the city’s relationship with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and stated that local police should not honor ICE detainers. Atlanta does not permit inmates to be questioned unless there is documentation showing that prior notice was given and that counsel was offered.

Cincinnati, OH citiscape


In 2015, the Queen City’s police department adopted a policy stating that they would not “enforce immigration laws,” or make stops or arrests based on suspicion of illegal immigrant status. This policy was formalized in 2017 when Mayor John Cranley declared that Cincinnati would be a sanctuary city. However, neither Cincinnati nor Hamilton County were listed on the Justice Department’s 2017 list of sanctuary cities in danger of losing federal funds.

Other sanctuary cities in Ohio are Columbus, Lorain, and Oberlin.

Louisville KY citiscape


Louisville also claims to be a “welcoming city,” rather than a sanctuary jurisdiction. However, in 2017, the city council passed a measure stating that city employees, including police, could not question an individual about their immigration status. It also stated that police may only assist federal immigration agencies with a warrant signed by a judge or when there is a risk of danger or violence. The council’s policy resembles a Louisville Metro Police Department policy pertaining to interaction with ICE.

In early February 2020, the Kentucky State Senate passed an anti-sanctuary bill, although it is unlikely to be signed by Gov. Andy Beshear (D).

New Orleans, LA citiscape


As the result of a lawsuit and subsequent consent decree, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman (D) revised the city’s ICE policy to prohibit detaining anyone who ICE suspects is an illegal alien. Going forward, the city would also not honor ICE detainer requests. The city’s Police Department Operations Manual reaffirmed New Orleans’ sanctuary status – including detainer noncompliance – in September 2016.

New Orleans is the only sanctuary city in Louisiana and was the first southern city to adopt sanctuary policies.

Salt Lake City, Utah citiscape


In January 2017, Mayor Jackie Biskupski (D) did not fully commit to adopting sanctuary policies, but declared that “we are doing everything that a sanctuary city is doing.” Echoing the mayor, Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown said it has been department policy not to question individuals about their immigration status.

In June 2019, Mayor Biskupski declared that Salt Lake City law enforcement will not cooperate with ICE during enforcement operations. According to the Justice Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Salt Lake City filed 42 illegal re-entry of previously removed alien cases in January of 2020. A majority of defendants were illegal aliens found in local jails. 

Tuskegee Airmen Historic Site


Since the passage of a City Council resolution in May 2015, Tuskegee has refused to honor immigration detainers and it is impermissible for local law enforcement to consider an individual’s immigration status when conducting inquiries, stops, detentions, or arrests based on real or perceived immigration status. In March 2020, State Sen. Arthur Orr (R) introduced a bill that would criminalizes sanctuary policies or actions that might undermine enforcement of immigration laws.

Tuskegee is the only sanctuary city in the state of Alabama.