In recent years, sanctuary policies have increasingly become a political, legal, and narrative battle between those who seek to protect the rights of immigrants and communities of color and those who oppose them. The federal government has built a massive infrastructure that exploits state and local resources in the name of detaining and deporting immigrants. In response, state legislatures and governors across the country have had a crucial choice: pass sanctuary policies to protect their residents, pass anti-immigrant policies that harm residents, or do nothing. Through all this, activists have strategized and rallied others to their cause, courts have upheld or struck down pieces of legislation, and millions of lives have been irrevocably impacted.
This map focuses on state laws that regulate the state’s involvement in immigration enforcement. Sanctuary policies take many forms, but broadly act to limit the participation of state or local agencies with detention and deportation. Anti-sanctuary laws are intentionally anti-immigrant: some prohibit local governments from enacting sanctuary policies, and some mandate specific assistance to ICE. The map looks at what these policies do, where they are, where they aren’t, and what is left open.
For larger version of the map, click here.
The map represents the degree to which state policies limit or expand involvement in immigration enforcement, based on an analysis of current state laws and any litigation impacting state laws, as well as our own expertise in state and local laws and policies relating to immigration enforcement. It shows which states have gone the furthest in passing legislation that protects their communities, which have made significant steps, which have done nothing, which have prevented their localities from taking protective measures, and which have actively passed laws to collude with ICE in ways that significantly harm their residents.
We update the map regularly as the laws shift and grow.
Some states are clear leaders in offering protections for their immigrant residents and residents of color that are disproportionately harmed by biased policing, imprisonment, and deportation. States that have not enacted any laws regarding immigration enforcement are nonetheless often providing unnecessary, sometimes illegal, assistance to ICE. Some states have gone to the other extreme, placing their communities at risk. They have passed laws punishing their own localities for passing sanctuary policies and undermined the impact of these protective policies. Some have also passed even more expansive, discriminatory and harmful policies that attempt to force state and local law enforcement to essentially become a de facto arm of the federal detention and deportation system. While some aspects of these policies have been struck down by federal courts, others remain.
Explanation of Methodology and Legend
For this map, we analyzed 50 states and the federal District of Columbia for state sanctuary-related laws across 15 parameters. These parameters fell into four general categories: information and resource sharing with ICE, jail-to-ICE transfers, patrol officer collusion with ICE, and contracts with ICE or CBP. For explanation of these categories and the individual parameters, see The Appendix. States were given a numerical score ranging from 1-5 for each parameter, with “1” the most harmful and “5” the most protective. We also analyzed how litigation has changed the impact of state legislation. States that had passed laws that would have given them a score of “1” for most harmful were changed to “2” or somewhat harmful where successful litigation resulted in striking down or mitigating the harmful impact of the legislation. Where state laws simply reiterated federal laws that harm immigrants, we also gave them a “2” or somewhat harmful designation. On the pro-sanctuary side, states that passed strong protective policies were given a “5” as most protective; those that had significant carve-outs or exceptions to these policies were given a “4” as somewhat protective. States that have no legislation or didn’t address a specific parameter were given a not applicable (“n/a”) score of “3”.
When averaged across all the parameters, two states had particularly strong and comprehensive laws protecting immigrants, and fell into the most protective category: Oregon and Illinois. Three other states also have broad sanctuary statutes: New Jersey, California, and Washington. Colorado, Maryland, Vermont, and Connecticut have also enacted laws against their involvement in immigration enforcement. New York and Rhode Island have taken some small steps toward reducing immigration enforcement. On the other side, several states have enacted laws mandating some participation in immigration enforcement by local agencies: Arizona, Montana, Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Georgia, North Dakota, North Carolina, and Indiana. A handful of states have fairly broad anti-sanctuary laws with significant negative effects for their immigrant residents: South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Idaho and Alabama. And four states have particularly aggressive and comprehensive anti-sanctuary laws that force local agencies to be involved in deporting their constituents: Florida, Texas, West Virginia and Iowa. Although a number of these anti-sanctuary laws have been sharply limited by federal court decisions, many of their impacts remain in effect.
The focus of this map is on state legislation, rather than executive orders, court decisions unrelated to litigation, or other non-legislative policies. We made two exceptions for New Jersey and Rhode Island. Because the New Jersey Constitution and its Criminal Justice Act provide for the Attorney General to direct all law enforcement and prosecuting agencies operating under the authority of the laws of the state, the Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive has expansive impact akin to legislation and was treated as such in our map. Rhode Island operates a unified correctional system whereby the Governor’s Executive Order directing its Department of Corrections impacts the only jail and prison in the state and was also treated as akin to legislation.
The map does not include or analyze immigration-related state laws that are not focused on immigration enforcement, such as funds for immigration legal services, access to drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants, in-state tuition for undocumented students, state benefits afforded to non-citizens, etc.
The Impacts of State Immigration Laws
As the map shows, we are at a precipice for which way our country will go. If states are laboratories for democracy, we can see the different possibilities before us and what they mean to all of our communities. States are closely divided between protective laws (12 states with a combined population of 112 million people) and harmful laws (18 states with a combined population of 127 million people), with 24 states that have not yet passed sanctuary or anti-sanctuary policies (with a combined population of 93 million people). More foreign born residents are impacted by states with protective laws (23 million people) vs states with harmful laws (14 million people), with 8 million people residing in states that have passed no laws on immigration.
These numbers represent real people’s lives, but they are just a rough approximation that does not speak to the broader impacts of these policies, nor to how carefully the laws are actually followed. But we know that overpoliced, vulnerable populations are better integrated, more secure, and more involved in their communities when local law enforcement agents are not involved in deportations. Their children are less likely to live in fear of losing a parent, mental health is improved, and access to justice is protected, while crime rates continue to fall. Until our federal lawmakers gather the political will to end the tyranny of our detention and deportation machine, the ILRC will continue to advise advocates, law enforcement, and elected officials across the nation on how to enact and improve sanctuary policies to protect our communities.
Local involvement in immigration enforcement makes local agencies the gateway to deportation, co-opts local resources into questionable, racially discriminatory purposes, strips communities of any sense of safety, and undermines the rule of law.
There is no federal legal obligation for state and local jurisdictions to use their resources to help with immigration enforcement. But historically police and sheriff’s departments have often voluntarily assisted ICE, without even considering the legality or ramifications of their actions.
In recent years, following widespread advocacy and federal court rulings that ICE detainers (requests to have an individual held for transfer directly from local custody to immigration detention) are unconstitutional, hundreds of counties and cities stopped complying with these requests. And many have gone much further in shielding their local resources from entanglement in immigration enforcement. However, the majority of counties have still not caught on to the legal jeopardy they face by complying with ICE detainers, nor recognized the horrific implications for their immigrant residents. ILRC maintains a map of county-level policies on involvement with ICE here: www.ilrc.org/local-enforcement-map.
Amidst the controversy over Secure Communities and the refusal of many localities to transfer their residents to ICE , some politicians and pundits began using sanctuary policies as a scapegoat for all of society’s ills. Donald Trump made attacking sanctuary policies one of the cornerstones of his 2016 campaign and a key domestic policy priority for his administration. Prior to Donald Trump, Arizona and a few other copycat states passed expansive “show me your papers” anti-sanctuary legislation, essentially forcing its state and local law enforcement to act as an arm of federal immigration enforcement (which even the federal government at the time opposed). While the Supreme Court and other federal courts have struck down many of the unconstitutional aspects of these laws, other insidious provisions remained. More recent waves of anti-sanctuary legislation have skirted the provisions originally struck down by the courts, but added new harmful measures restricting localities from passing sanctuary policies and increasing other aspects of collusion between state and local law enforcement and ICE.
At the same time, states like Washington and California have led the way on enacting protective laws, and most recently, Illinois and Oregon have shown what truly expansive protective policies can offer their residents. At the ILRC, we have seen tremendous success of sanctuary policies that disentangle local law enforcement from ICE, and we continue to craft, support, and advocate for those initiatives nationwide.
For press inquiries about this map, ILRC’s reports on sanctuary policies, or other ILRC information about immigration enforcement, contact Donna De La Cruz at email@example.com. For more information about data underlying the map or assistance in starting a local campaign or joining national efforts, contact Lena Graber at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information on policies specific to local entanglement with ICE, see our map. For more details about policies regarding immigration enforcement and analysis of what our maps mean, see our reports reviewing the nature and expansion of sanctuary policies across the country: Growing the Resistance (2019); The Rise of Sanctuary(2018); and Searching for Sanctuary.