Proposed and Approved State Legislation


In response to President Trump’s January executive action to crack down on sanctuary jurisdictions, states have responded in two opposite ways – either cracking down on sanctuary cities under their jurisdiction or moving for the entire state to become a sanctuary jurisdiction. Sanctuary cities or states are defined as jurisdictions that limit their cooperation with the federal government in order to help undocumented immigrants avoid deportation. While the state of Tennessee already had a law that prevents cities from making policies that hinder the enforcement of federal immigration law, Republican lawmakers have proposed a new policy that would cut off funding to cities that did such. With the support of Governor Greg Abbott, the Texas legislature passed a similar bill in February. On the other hand, the California State Senate has passed a bill this week that would prohibit local law enforcement agencies from using resources to pursue immigration violations. Similar bills have been introduced in Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, and New York. Vermont already has a similar law on the books.


Sanctuary states would challenge a federal government that is decidedly unwelcoming and eager to deny undocumented immigrants their day in immigration court by deporting them for committing a crime as minor as a traffic violation. The stance that sanctuary states would take is an admirable one, but forcing local law enforcement officials to choose whether to obey their state government or the federal government is not an optimal policy outcome and could present problems that municipal sanctuary policy would not. Sanctuary states also would pose a massive challenge to the Trump administration’s threat to cut off funding to sanctuary jurisdictions, which on the city level would already be a legally questionable move.

Engagement Resources

  • Local Options for Protecting Immigrants – This document hosted by the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights notes what steps local governments can take to protect immigrants against federal government actions.
  • Support a Local Solidarity Network in Your Area – Organizations are rapidly forming on a local level across the country to protect the rights of undocumented immigrants and to ensure that law enforcement agencies are acting legally and justly as they seek to enforce these new executive orders. Examples include the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network and Mi Casa es Su Casa (San Diego).
  • Resistance Manual – Crisis Resources – If you know someone who is facing immigration troubles, please share this compendium of legal resources and relevant nonprofit organizations with them.

This brief was compiled by Oliver Bjornsson. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief please contact



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