Top 5 States with the Most Illegal Immigrant Sanctuaries - American Police Officers Alliance

Sanctuary Cities in the US

What is a Sanctuary City? Some cities across the US have adopted policies to protect illegal immigrants from having their immigration status investigated by federal authorities. These cities are known as “sanctuary cities,” which can be defined as: “a city in which the local government and police protect undocumented immigrants and refugees from deportation by federal authorities: sanctuary cities where law enforcement cannot question crime suspects about their immigration status.”

And in 2017, CNN described Sanctuary Cities as being:

“…applied to jurisdictions that have policies in place designed to limit cooperation with or involvement in federal immigration enforcement actions. Cities, counties and some states have a range of informal policies as well as actual laws that qualify as “sanctuary” positions.”

Most policies center around not cooperating with federal law enforcement on immigration policies. Many of the largest cities in the country have forms of such policies. In short, sanctuary cities are jurisdictions in which federal immigration laws are obstructed and essentially violated. These locations harbor migrants who break federal immigration laws and arrive here illegally or overstay their visas. In fact, in many of these states, entire counties are illegal immigrant sanctuaries.

Sanctuary States in the US

How many sanctuary states are there? As of this writing, there are currently 11 states in the United States of America that are classified as “Sanctuary States” for illegal immigrants, also commonly referred to as Safe Haven States. These states are…

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Top 5 states with the most Sanctuary Cities in the US


In total, 30 counties are illegal immigrant sanctuaries in Oregon. There are only 36 counties in the entire state. In addition, the cities of Eugene and Springfield are also sanctuaries.


Local politicians in the state of Washington have created 18 sanctuary counties for illegal immigrants in that state, including King County, home to the state’s largest city, Seattle. Seattle also classifies itself as a Sanctuary City. The state has 39 counties in total.

Top 5 States with the Most Illegal Immigrant Sanctuaries - American Police Officers Alliance


The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is home to 15 Sanctuary Counties for illegal immigrants. While Pennsylvania is at the top of this list, the concentration of sanctuaries is far less than the above states listed, as there are 67 counties in the state. Philadelphia is also classified as a Sanctuary City.


The Golden State is tied with Pennsylvania on this list, with 15 Sanctuary Counties. But like Pennsylvania, the state has far more counties than Oregon and Washington, with 58. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkley, Watsonville, and Santa Ana are all Sanctuary Cities in California.


The Centennial State rounds out the top 5 on this list, with 13 Sanctuary Counties. There are 64 counties in the state. The city of Aurora is also a Sanctuary City in Colorado.

Aside from being a flagrant violation of the country’s immigration laws, the existence of these sanctuaries creates potentially dangerous environments for the legal residents and citizens who live there. When it becomes local policy to shield lawbreakers from scrutiny, the slippery slope inevitably leads to letting criminals who are capable of much worse than illegal immigration walk the streets freely. This puts Law Enforcement and their communities at increased, unnecessary, and completely avoidable risk. Most of all, these sanctuaries only incentivize and perpetuate the illegal immigration crisis that this country is currently being subjected to.

Have any States Banned Sanctuary Cities?

Yes! Read more about states that have banned sanctuary cities here.

Image Credit: Photo by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash

Arguments in favor of sanctuary cities include the concept that the removal of fear of deportation allows undocumented immigrants to feel safe reporting crime, leading to statistically lower crime rates in some of these cities. However, while the benefits for those who are on the path to obtaining legal citizenship are numerous, the fact remains that these sanctuary cities can still obstruct departments from removing unwanted criminal offenders from a country in which they are residing illegally. Here’s a closer look at sanctuary cities pros and cons.

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