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Do You Live in One of the 11 Sanctuary States or the District of Columbia?

What Is A Sanctuary State?

Sanctuary policies are those followed by towns, cities, counties, states, and other jurisdictions that restrict most forms of cooperation with federal immigration authorities. While jurisdictions are not compelled by federal law to participate in federal immigration enforcement activities, federal law (8 USC § 1373) prohibits them from actively obstructing enforcement of federal law. In addition, sanctuary policies may violate the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2) and the 10th Amendment.

Most importantly, sanctuary policies place the public at risk by preventing the federal authorities from locating, arresting, and prosecuting criminal aliens. The result is that all residents, including legal immigrants and illegal aliens, are in danger of being victimized, even killed, by criminal illegal aliens who benefited from protections afforded by sanctuary policies.

Currently, there are 11 states in the nation that have through executive action or passage of a law declared themselves “sanctuary states.” Although not a state, the District of Columbia is also considered a sanctuary jurisdiction. All are part the approximately 600 sanctuary jurisdictions in the U.S., most of which were established after 2000.

The 11 Sanctuary States

California state flag
CA

CALIFORNIA

California became a sanctuary state after Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed Senate Bill 54, the California Values Act, in October 2017.

With almost 40 million residents, California is the most populous sanctuary state.

At least 16 cities and/or counties in Southern California have expressed opposition to the state law by either filing lawsuits or passing local ordinances.

Colorado state flag
CO

COLORADO

In response to Colorado’s action, the Trump administration legally withheld some $2.7 million in previously approved federal law enforcement grants.

Saying the state’s sanctuary law is not strong enough, state Sen. Julie Gonzalez introduced legislation in February to prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers from entering courthouses to make civil arrests.

Connecticut state flag
CT

CONNECTICUT

The Nutmeg State became a sanctuary state when its legislature passed the Trust Act in 2013, and it was signed by Gov. Dannel Malloy (D).

The law prohibits state and local law enforcement from honoring ICE immigration detainers under most circumstances.

In June 2019, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) signed legislation, which went into effect in October, that further expanded the 2013 sanctuary statute.

Illinois state flag
IL

ILLINOIS

Illinois became a sanctuary state in 2017 when Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed the Illinois Trust Act

It is the sixth most populous state in the union, making it one of the largest sanctuary states.

In 2019, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed three bills expanding the sanctuary law. The bills together would ban alien detention centers, prohibit local law enforcement from cooperating with ICE, and would limit immigration enforcement at public schools and universties, libraries, hospitals, and courthouses.

Massachusetts state flag
MA

MASSACHUSETTS

In July 2017, Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling in the Lunn v. Commonwealth case which effectively made it a sanctuary state.

According to the Pew Research Center, the Bay State’s illegal alien population grew more than any other state’s from 2007 to 2017 — a 60,000 spike that costs Massachusetts taxpayers and risks public safety.

The town of Cambridge went even further in 2020 when it passed a law advising police not to arrest illegal aliens for driving without a license.

New Jersey state flag
NJ

NEW JERSEY

New Jersey became a sanctuary state on March 15, 2019 when a November 29, 2018 directive issued by state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal (D) went into effect.

This appears to be the first case of a state being made into a sanctuary for illegal aliens by the unilateral executive action of a non-elected official (Grewal was appointed by Democratic Governor Phil Murphy).

In January 2020, the Department of Justice filed a brief supporting two towns’ legal challenges to Grewal’s Immigrant Trust Directive.

New York state flag
NY

NEW YORK

The Empire State became an illegal alien sanctuary on the basis of a September 15, 2017 executive order signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), which covered state agencies, but not local law enforcement.

In November 2018, a New York state appeals court ruled (in the case of Francis v. DeMarco) that state and local law enforcement cannot honor ICE immigration detainers.

New York began allowing illegal aliens to obtain driver’s licenses in 2019.

Oregon state flag
OR

OREGON

Oregon’s sanctuary statute was enacted in July 1987, making it the first sanctuary state.

The law prohibits the use of public resources to arrest or detain illegal aliens whose only crime is violating U.S. immigration laws.

In 2020, Democrats in the state legislature attempted to force the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility to stop contracting with the federal government to detain illegal and criminal aliens.

Rhode Island state flag
RI

RHODE ISLAND

In 2014, Gov. Lincoln Chafee, elected as an Independent but switched to the Democratic Party, directed the state’s executive agencies, and its Department of Corrections, to stop honoring federal immigration detainers without a court order.

In 2017 and 2018, state lawmakers failed to pass a bill barring ICE personnel and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) from entering schools, hospitals, and courthouses without a judicial warrant.

The Ocean State has approximately 30,000 illegal aliens and they comprised 2.9 percent of the total state population in 2014.

Vermont state flag
VT

VERMONT

Vermont became an illegal alien sanctuary state in 2011 when Gov. Pete Shumlin (D) implemented a new policy – on the basis of State Police Rules and Regulations VSP-DIR-301 – that was prompted by the arrest of two Mexican nationals after being stopped for speeding.

In 2017, Gov. Phil Scott (R) signed Vermont Senate Bill 79, which expanded Vermont’s sanctuary policy to apply to local authorities (while the 2011 policy applied only to the State Police).

In 2020, as the result of a lawsuit filed by a pro-sanctuary special interest group, the state Department of Motor Vehicles pledged not to report illegal immigrants to the federal authorities. 

Washington state flag
WA

WASHINGTON

Washington state has been an illegal alien sanctuary since Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) February 2017 executive order, which applied to state agencies.

In May 2019, Inslee signed legislation,  known as the Keep Washington Working Act, codifying and further expanding his executive order by barring local jails from holding people based solely on ICE detainers.

In February, the Trump administration sued King County, Washington over its policy of preventing ICE from using its airports for deportation flights. 

District of Columbia flag
DC

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

While not a state, the nation’s capital first moved toward sanctuary status in 1984 when then-Mayor Marion Barry (D) issued a memo prohibiting D.C. officers and employees from asking anyone about their immigration status, with a narrow exception only for determining eligibility for public benefits.

This was expanded by former Mayor Vince Gray (D) in 2011 and the DC Council in 2012.

In October 2019, the 2012 law was further reinforced when the DC Council unanimously passed emergency legislation, which prohibits holding detained illegal aliens longer than citizens or legal immigrants or notifying ICE of illegal alien release dates.