OJJPAC: "Sanctuary Cities, USA"
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The Original list of  Sanctuary Cities, USA

Note: The word "Original" is used because the OJJPAC Sanctuary Cities, USA List is the most complete and widely used list of sanctuary cities in the United States.  Our sanctuary list has been widely copied since 2007, usually without a link to this page.  As a result, most copies of our sanctuary cities list are out-of-date.  OJJPAC does not claim to be the first to document the presence of cities with sanctuary policies.

(Scroll down for the most complete list of Sanctuary Cities in the United States of America)


What are Sanctuary Cities?

By Steve Salvi, Founder, OJJPAC.org  

 In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA ). The IIRIRA requires local governments to cooperate with Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency.  Despite the IIRIRA, many urban, suburban, and rural communities have ignored the law and adopted so-called "sanctuary" policies.  Generally, these sanctuary policies instruct city employees not to notify the federal government of the presence of illegal aliens living in their communities. The policies may also erase any distinction between legal resident aliens and illegal aliens--so illegal aliens may benefit from taxpayer funded government services and programs too.

     A formal sanctuary policy is a written policy enacted a local government body in the form of a resolution, ordinance, or administrative action--general or special orders, or departmental policies.  Formal sanctuary cities are the easiest to identify because their sanctuary policies are in writing, often get the attention of the media, and are subject to public records requests by citizens and the press.

     Examples of formal sanctuary policies

     The Governor of Maine instituted an Executive Order entitled "An Order Concerning Access to State Services By All Entitled Maine Residents," in 2004.  The Order limits state employee ability to report the presence of illegal aliens, which some people claim has resulted in many illegal aliens migrating to Maine seeking public benefits and valid Maine drivers licenses (which can be used to drive in other states). 

     The Republican controlled Utah Legislature passed controversial bills in May 2011, which allow illegal aliens to live and work in Utah.  Police also refrain from inquiring about anyone's legal status unless they are stopped or arrested for serious misdemeanors or felonies.

      In 2008, Gavin Newsom, who served as mayor of San Francisco at the time, publicized the city's sanctuary status in a  press release for San Francisco's Sanctuary City Outreach Program.  Newsome later backtracked somewhat after news organizations began exposing how the city's sanctuary policy had protected illegal alien gang members that were committing serious crimes in San Francisco and elsewhere.  In 2009, Newsome attempted to veto an ordinance passed by San Francisco's even more radical Board of Supervisors which prohibited illegal aliens charged with crimes from being detained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  Newsome now serves as California's Lt. Governor.

     In Katy, Texas, publicity about  re-offending illegal aliens also put pressure on that city's administration to rethink it's sanctuary policy--at least for illegal aliens that commit felonies. 

     Informal sanctuary policies

     An informal sanctuary policy is an 'unwritten' policy that is not formally documented on paper.  None-the-less, an informal sanctuary policy is established and sanctioned by a local government authority and carried out by its public employees (administrative, service, and or safety).  Informal sanctuary policies are more difficult to document since no public record exists. Informal sanctuary policies however can be evidenced in other ways.  

     A local government's (e.g., township, village, city, or county) interaction with illegal aliens can evidence an unwritten sanctuary policy.  For example, does a police department contact Immigration and Customs enforcement (ICE) if they encounter illegal aliens after a traffic stop or criminal arrest? Are illegal aliens simply released after the traffic stop or time spent in the local jail?

     Statements and actions by public official can indicate a community's unwritten policy too.  Did a mayor of a town hire illegal alien day laborers for a city project?  Does a mayor, city administrator, or other city official complain to the press that illegal aliens in their community should not be subject to raids or arrests by ICE?  Does a city council adopt a resolution in opposition to the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws?  These actions and statements are indicators that an informal (unwritten) sanctuary policy may exist in a community.    

    Why do public officials create sanctuaries?

     One justification of creating sanctuary cities is often under the guise of protecting 'immigrant rights.'  But illegal aliens are not immigrants.  An immigrant is a person who entered the U.S. legally and maintains legal presence. When a person is illegally smuggled into the U.S. or violates their visa restrictions--he/she is an unauthorized (illegal) alien subject to deportation under existing U.S. law.

     Another false argument public officials use to justify sanctuary policies is safety.  They 'sell' sanctuary policies to the naive public as effective "community policing" policy tools.  The argument goes as follows: Illegal aliens who are witnesses too or victims of crime, won't report the crimes to police for fear of arrest and deportation.  However, these political panderers ignore the fact that if illegal aliens were prevented from entering the U.S. or removed from the U.S. by ICE, they would not be in the U.S. to become victims in the U.S.

     Why do public officials pass sanctuary laws or establish unwritten "don't ask--don't tell" policies?  There are a variety of reasons.  Some politicians attempt to appease politically powerful illegal immigration support groups such as the National Council of La Raza (NCLR)Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund (MALDF), and League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) that lobby local governments to implement formal or informal sanctuary policies. Other reasons include political contributions and ethnic voter support at election time; complacency, ignorance, or 'don't care' attitudes; and purposeful resistance to existing U.S. immigration law based upon an open-border political philosophy that may serve their economic, political, or ethnocentric interests.  A great number of politically appointed big city police chief's often support an administration's sanctuary policy because they share a similar political ideology or just want to keep their job.  It's much easier too for city officials to collect their paychecks and avoid the political protests and threats of expensive lawsuits that routinely follow attempts by city administrations who take steps to stop illegal aliens from settling in their communities. 

The Obama administration has been quick to file lawsuits against any state or local government attempting to crack down on illegal aliens in their jurisdictions.  However, when cities openly violate federal law by aiding illegal aliens, the Obama administration has looked the other way.  For example, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson  audaciously claims that the Obama administration is helpless in stopping the practice.  Johnson also opposes any attempts by the US Congress to pass legislation to punish sanctuary cities.  The Obama Department of Justice has reportedly pressured DHS in the past not to interfere with cities with sanctuary policies.

     The consequences of sanctuary policies.  What you can do.

     Sanctuary policies, official or otherwise, result in safe havens (or safer havens) for illegal aliens involved in a variety of criminal enterprises.  Sanctuary policies inhibit the ability of law enforcement officers to accurately identify foreign nationals which makes it more difficult to uncover their illegal activities.  Illegal aliens face less risk of deportation too if caught by local law enforcement.  Sanctuary policies also help shield the operations of Latin American drug cartels, gangs, and terrorist cells--since their activities are less likely to be detected and real identities uncovered by federal law enforcement. 

Some sanctuary cities (e.g., Chicago and San Francisco) even receive millions of dollars in federal State Criminal Alien Assistance Program grants to compensate for the cost of jailing illegal alien criminals--even though city sanctuary policies act to encourage illegal alien settlement.

The negative effects of Santa Clara County California's sanctuary policy has put its citizens at greater risk according to the county's District Attorney.   District Attorney Jeffrey Rosen has proposed that  the County Board of Supervisors vote to ease its law baring local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration law enforcement.  Rosen gave an example of a woman who was raped by an illegal alien who had been shielded from from federal detention by the county's policy.

 To learn more about the consequences of sanctuary policies and lax immigration law enforcement, visit the Victims of Illegal Aliens Memorial and the Ojjpac homepage.

What you can do to stop sanctuary policies in your city and state.

     What can you do to help stop sanctuary policies?  Get involved and demand change!  Call the President and your members of Congress (U.S. House and U.S. Senate) and demand aggressive border and interior enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.  At the state and local level, attend and testify at scheduled public meetings and determine what are your community's policies.  If your local government or state has official or unofficial sanctuary policies, ask that they be repealed.

     A group of citizens in Spokane, Washington, called Respect Washington, started an initiative petition in 2015 (Initiative No. 2015-1) to stop the city's illegal alien sanctuary policy which was adopted by the Spokane City Council as Ordinance Nos. C35164 and C-35167 in October, 2014.  The group is also working on a statewide "Respect for Law" initiative petition.

     Some state legislatures have either passed or are considering immigration enforcement legislation too, which you can support.  For example, in early 2015, State Senator Charles Perry, R-Lubock, Texas, introduced SB 185.  SB 185 specifically allowed local law enforcement to question immigration status and share that information with federal law enforcement.  It also allowed the Texas Attorney General to investigate citizen complaints about Texas cities that have adopted sanctuary policies.

     Some public officials have taken positive steps to combat illegal alien crime.

     Some communities have taken positive steps to combat illegal immigration to offset the Obama administration's foot-dragging and purposeful undermining of U.S. immigration law enforcement.  For example, after significant numbers of illegal aliens began to settle in Prince William County, VA, its Board of Supervisors passed a resolution on July 10, 2007 cracking down on illegal aliens.  The county's law enforcement agents would now check immigration status of people detained for violating local or state laws if an officer had probable cause.   Here is a February 25, 2008 police department news release:  Police Department Implements New Illegal Immigration Enforcement Policy.  After the enforcement policy was implemented, many illegal aliens moved out of the county, crime significantly dropped, and citizens experienced an improved quality of life.

Some cities have passed resolutions declaring themselves not to be sanctuary cities.  The City of Escondido, CA passed such a resolution in 2007 and defeated an attempt to have it repealed by a Hispanic council member in 2010.  In May, 2010, The City of Costa Mesa, CA passed a "Rule of Law City" Resolution supported by Mayor Allan Mansoor.  The resolution signaled the city's support for the rule of law and opposition to cities that violate federal law by creating sanctuaries for illegal aliens. 

     In response to the great number of illegal aliens entering Arizona via Mexico, the Arizona state legislature passed the Legal Arizona Workers Act in 2007, which allowed the state to sanction employers of illegal workers.  In 2010, the State of Arizona also passed the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, better known as SB 1070, which also had the purpose of addressing the problems associated with illegal migration in Arizona.

     In May, 2011, Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11), introduced H.R. 2057 Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Act of 2011, a bill that prohibits sanctuary cities from receiving federal funds until the communities are in compliance with the IIRIR Act of 1996.  Barletta, the former mayor of Hazleton Pennsylvania gained national attention in 2006 after working to pass two ordinances to combat escalating violence attributed to the growing illegal alien population in Hazleton.  Barletta has vowed to reintroduce The Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Act after the murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco in July, 2015 by an illegal Mexican national who had sought protection from deportation by San Francisco's sanctuary policy.

     U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, one of the strongest advocates for immigration law enforcement in the U.S. Congress, has introduced Senate Bill 1640 (S. 1640) to address Sanctuary Cities.  Senator Sessions' bill also gives states and local governments the authority to enforce immigration laws. It is named the  Davis-Oliver Act, after two law enforcement officers who where murdered by illegal aliens.  Congressman Trey Gowdy has introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House (H.R. 1148).

     The Missouri legislature acted to rein in sanctuary cities by amending Chapter 67of the Missouri Revised Statutes, enacting Section 67.307.  The new Act prohibited municipalities from adopting sanctuary policies under the penalty of becoming ineligible for certain state funding.

     The ordinances and state statutes that states and municipalities have passed have been subject to immediate legal challenges by either the Obama administration and or other so-called "immigrant rights groups." Opponents to the laws generally claim that the U.S. Constitution delegates all immigration powers to the federal government.

     Local and state officials argue that the federal government is failing to enforce federal immigration laws and states have the authority to pass and enforce laws that do not conflict with federal law.  The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that some aspects of these state statutes are constitutional.  Much litigation still needs to work its way through the courts, which has likely had a chilling effect on attempts by other local and state governments to pass immigration enforcement legislation.  However, if the U.S. Supreme Court releases decisions favorable to state and local governments, carefully drafted model immigration enforcement bills may once again be considered in city halls and state legislatures around the US.  

     On October 20, 2015, the U.S. Senate held a cloture vote on S.2146, a bill which intended to penalize sanctuary jurisdictions that continued to defy Federal law.  However, in a party-line vote, Senate Democrats overwhelmingly supported sanctuary cities by voting against the bill, stopping it from moving forward.

     Does your city, county, or state have a written or unwritten sanctuary policy?  First, read the disclaimer and then view the list of U.S. cities below.

Note:  This article was first written in 2006 by Steve Salvi, Founder, Ohio Jobs & Justice PAC.  Steve's last revision was made on November 3, 2015. 

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The Original list of  Sanctuary Cities, USA

(The sanctuary list is continuously updated.  It was last updated on: 10-20-15)

Notices of understanding and disclaimer: 

If you believe a city should not be listed, please send an email to salvi@ojjpac.org.  We will  note the dispute and attempt to verify the city's status.  Dates that accompany entries represent the point at which a city or other political jurisdiction was added to the sanctuary list.  Dates do not necessarily indicate when it became (or allegedly became) a sanctuary.   Not all listings have been independently verified by OJJPAC. This is especially true with entries added prior to May, 2007, in which many listing were added due to local sanctuary whistleblowers.  Sanctuary listings after May 2007, include one or more sources.  Some sanctuary cities may not have yet been identified and therefore not listed below.  You are encouraged to perform additional research regarding the status of your community as policies can change.  The presence of illegal aliens in a community does not necessarily indicate that a city supports illegal migration or is a "sanctuary city."  Cities that have rescind their sanctuary ordinances or resolutions will be in green text.  Cities disputing listings will have a notation in red text.

Source abbreviation key:

Dept. of Homeland Security Declined Detainer Outcome Report = DHS DDOR


Sanctuaries listed by state (in alphabetical order)












        North Dakota





      Rhode Island



        Washington (State)

    Washington, D.C.  

 Cities under review

 Diamond Bar, CA   (6/26/07 Disputed by city. Currently being researched to verify.)

Boulder, CO

DesMoines, IA  (Added 11-28-07 Source: Proposal seeks banning immigration raids in D.M., by Nigel Duara, DesMoines-Register)

Bridgeton, NJ            (Added 6-3-07) [7-27-07 Disputed by a reputed farm worker advocate, see note below.] 

Peekskill, NY      [Disputed, being researched]

San Antonio, TX  [Note: The Sanctuary status of San Antonio is disputed, being researched.]

Watch List Cities  Note: This is a new list started 8-14-07 and was updated on 7-23-15.

 Bridgeton, NJ           7-27-07 Disputed by a reputed farm worker advocate who sent me this email:

"I just wanted to point out an inaccuracy on your website's listing of sanctuary cities.  You have Bridgeton, NJ listed as a sanctuary city, and indeed it is most definitely not.  I work with CATA - The Farm workers' Support committee (www.cata-farmworkers.org) and we have an organized group of membership in this town.  One of our goals is working towards making Bridgeton an sanctuary city, but the local government is quite unfriendly towards the immigrant population, and the mayor has even hinted at wanting to implement a Hazleton type of ordinance (luckily, given yesterday's legal decision, that won't be happening)."

Columbus, OH

The Columbus Dispatch [Ohio] wrote:  "The police didn't contact immigration authorities concerning those who were determined to be undocumented, Booth       said. Authorities say that's typical when it comes to misdemeanor charges."  [Columbus, Ohio]



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Archived Sanctuary News Stories


U.S. Congressman Barletta to introduce bill to address illegal alien sanctuary cities  in U.S.

Left to right: Former Hazelton, PA Mayor and now Congressman Louis J. Barletta and Steve Salvi, Founder of Ohio Jobs & Justice PAC. (OJJPAC file photo)

Congressman  Louis J. Barletta has introduced legislation to punish local governments that have instituted so-called illegal alien sanctuary policies.

Congressman Barletta is the former mayor of Hazleton, PA, where he gained his first-hand knowledge of the  numerous   problems that  illegal migration brings to  local communities.

While Barletta welcomes legal immigrants, as mayor of Hazelton, he witnessed the problems local communities face when illegal aliens settle in a community, including the strain on community social services, the displacement of American workers, and increased crime.

  Read story here.


Sanctuary News:

San Francisco ignoring ICE detainers; won't turn over illegal aliens

Read  story here.


  San Francisco's revised and extreme Sanctuary policy would shield Mexican illegal alien accused of double homicide

Mayor comes to his senses and has administration notify ICE about alleged killer

Read KCBS news radio story.


Oberlin City Council Passes Illegal Alien Sanctuary Resolution 

Oberlin, OH -- The Oberlin city council met last Tuesday to vote on the third reading of the amended version of its illegal alien "don't ask don't tell" sanctuary resolution.  The controversial resolution which was first discussed by city council in December, was in response to last year's Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid on a local Mexican restaurant in which several illegal alien fugitives were captured. 

Despite concerns that the resolution was unconstitutional, violated the civil rights of the city's employees, and would provide a safe haven for criminal aliens, the resolution easily passed in a 6-1 vote.  The majority of council sided with the proponents of the proposal who argued that the immigration system is broken and that the sanctuary resolution is necessary for good for the community.  Opponents argued that the system would work if  existing laws were enforced, and the city of Oberlin has no right to violate federal law nor the rights of all Ohioans based on its perceived notion of an unjust law.

Over the past three city council meeting, supporters and opponents of the measure continued to trade charges and submit conflicting testimony.  Now that the resolution has passed, opponents  which include Ohio Jobs & Justice PAC, are considering challenging the city's action in court on the grounds that the resolution may violate federal law.  The mayor of nearby Kipton, Ohio, is also planning additional action.  The mayor is considering the adoption of anti-sanctuary legislation in Kipton and encourage other public officials to adopt similar anti-sanctuary resolutions in their communities.  Members of the  Rally Team, an anti-illegal immigration group in Painesville, will meet in February to discuss its response. Several of its members traveled to Oberlin each week to testify to its opposition to the resolution.


"The City of Oberlin has foolishly chosen arbitrary governance over the rule of law. It may find it necessary to defend itself in two courts -- a court of law and of public opinion."

 - Steve Salvi,  OJJPAC.org



Oberlin City Council seemingly ignores the U.S. Constitution, the Civil Rights of its City employees -- to provide a safe haven for illegal aliens

Oberlin, OH--The Oberlin City council voted 6-1 in favor of passage a city Resolution that would codify Oberlin's now de facto sanctuary policy, in direct conflict with federal law. To the City Council's credit,  members listened to an equal number of supporters and opponents to the Resolution.   Despite significant testimony against the measure from local residents, the City's chief of police, OJJPAC, and members of the Grassroots Rally Team, the council voted to approve the measure on its 1st reading.  1-20-09 Update: The resolution passed on its final reading.  See updated story.

Oberlin City Council members

Steve Salvi, OJJPAC founder & members of the Grass Roots Rally Team and concerned citizens


The Shaw family promoting Jamal's Law, which would have changed law enforcement policy in Los Angeles County.

Shaw family files wrongful death lawsuit against Los Angeles County and Sheriff because of sanctuary policy

The parents of 17-year-old murder victim Jamel Shaw Jr. have filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging that it was the county's illegal alien sanctuary policy which caused their son's murder in March, 2008. 

The Shaw's claim that the county's sanctuary policy resulted in the sheriff's office negligently releasing Pedro Espinoza, a reported gang member and illegal alien one day before Espinoza allegedly shot Shaw, a Los Angeles High School student and football player.  Read story here.

Jamal Shaw Jr.'s aunt meets with OJJPAC founder Steve Salvi to discuss her nephew's murder and Special Order 40.


From 9/11 Commission hearings:

"Were you aware that it was the US government established policy not to question or oppose the sanctuary policies of New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, San Diego for political reasons, which policy in those cities prohibited the local police from cooperating at all with federal immigration authorities?"

"I do not believe I was aware of that."
"Were you aware that it was the US government established policy not to question or oppose the sanctuary policies of New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, San Diego for political reasons, which policy in those cities prohibited the local police from cooperating at all with federal immigration authorities?"

"I do not believe I was aware of that."


Can you say malfeasance?  I think you can in Spring Valley, NY

 Don't know what malfeasance in public office is?  Read this article about a village mayor in Spring Valley, NY who appears to have ordered village employees to hire illegal aliens--which is contrary to federal law.  Story here.