Nearly 500 jurisdictions are now sanctuary cities, according to a group that’s tracked the issue for more than a decade, and who said there’s been a massive surge in the number of places trying to thwart federal immigration agents since President Trump’s election.
The Ohio Jobs & Justice Political Action Committee has added more than three dozen new cities and counties to its list in 2017 alone, as jurisdictions rush to try to shield illegal immigrants from what they expect to be a new push for deportations under Mr. Trump.
“More will be coming,” said Steve Salvi, founder of OJJ. “A lot of communities now, there’s resolutions in the works and citizens groups encouraging city councils to pass them.”
Perhaps just as surprising, though, are the four cities OJJ has removed from its list or is poised to remove, once it gets final confirmation of cooperation with Homeland Security officials. Two of those are in Alaska, while the other two are Dayton, Ohio, and Miami, Florida.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced in January that county jails would begin cooperating with federal agents on deportations, just a day after Mr. Trump issued an executive order calling for sanctuary cities to lose federal grant funding.
Mr. Salvi said he’s waiting to see what Miami does to follow through before erasing them from his list.
“I want to see statistics and numbers,” he said.
Asked about the growing list of sanctuaries, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that Mr. Trump stands by his promise to deny taxpayer money to those cities and counties.
But he said it’s probably going to be up to local voters to force changes on their city and county politicians.
“At the end of the day, this is a question for mayors and council members at the local level who have to answer to the people that elected them with clearly a position that is not in keeping with what most Americans believe,” Mr. Spicer said.
The OJJ list is longer than several others than also track sanctuaries, and a number of counties and cities on the list dispute being included.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that handled deportations, says 279 municipalities refused to cooperate on at least one case in fiscal year 2016.
All told, those sanctuaries released more than 2,000 illegal immigrants back onto the streets that ICE agents had been trying to deport.
Some cities try to avoid the word “sanctuary,” instead opting for “welcoming” policies. But Mr. Salvi said they stem from the same ideology and generally have the same effect of shielding illegal immigrants from legal consequences.
He said some cities get huffy when they see their name on his list. He would promise to note that the communities disputed the listing, and then asked the officials to send information to settle the matter. Jurisdictions rarely follow through.
⦁ Dave Boyer contributed to this article.