America's Sanctuary Communities Are More Numerous Than You Think 

Sanctuary counties span 30 states and represent 92 percent of America's population. As pressure builds on cities to either give up or double down on sanctuary, we'll map changes.

For some, the term "sanctuary city” is hardly new. It’s decades old, with roots in the 1980s — when churches defied federal officials and led efforts to house people escaping violence from Central America's civil wars.

As the debate over immigration policies and their legality intensifies, the push to protect unauthorized immigrants from deportation has spread to more than 600 counties in 30 states. While policies vary, one tactic used by resistant localities is to limit cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, when it comes to immigration detainers.

What are detainers? Simply put, they are ICE requests to local jails to hold arrested people in custody beyond their release date if they are undocumented. This gives ICE time to pick up and detain the person.

Those for sanctuary argue that police shouldn’t turn over to ICE immigrants who commit minor, non-violent crimes. It can lead to deportation regardless of their years in the US. Some police also say that complying with ICE detainers makes immigrants fear the police in general.

Those against sanctuary say such policies allow unauthorized immigrants, perhaps facing several criminal charges, to go free. They are public safety threats, critics say, although studies show crime is lower in sanctuary counties and that immigrants, with or without papers, commit less crime than US-born citizens.

Still, under President Donald Trump, the debate is becoming more polarized. He vows to crack down on sanctuary cities. Trump's executive order from January 25, parts of which have been put on hold by federal courts, states that “these jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people” and directs the administration to strip them of federal funding. But it’s unclear to what extent the government can do that, and legal pushback is certain.

Beyond the Trump threats, there are other pressures on local communities to enact or eliminate sanctuary policies. As counties change their status, we'll update these maps accordingly.


click to enlarge All Sanctuary Counties
  • All Sanctuary Counties


click to enlarge Support for Trump in sanctuary counties.
  • Support for Trump in sanctuary counties.


click to enlarge Sanctuary for Clinton in sanctuary counties.
  • Sanctuary for Clinton in sanctuary counties.

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