More than 400 counties enacted or stiffened their sanctuary policies last year, according to an analysis Thursday that found local leaders eager to defy President Trump’s demand for a crackdown.
The Immigrant Legal Resource Center said it expects this year to see even more cities, counties and states become sanctuaries, embracing the legal battle against Mr. Trump.
“In 2018, strengthening and expanding local sanctuary policies will be crucial to resisting the anti-immigrant Trump agenda and mitigating deportations,” the center said in its report.
The level of resistance to Mr. Trump varies widely, with some communities sharing information but declining to hold illegal immigrants longer than normal just for deportation purposes.
Other jurisdictions go further as sanctuaries, preventing deportation officers from even setting foot in their jails, prohibiting their own local officers from asking about immigration status, and in some cases flat-out preventing anything that would aid in immigration enforcement.
Most communities — more than 2,000 counties — fall into a middle ground, assisting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement but not signing any formal deals. Only 141 counties have those kinds of formal agreements, the center said.
On the other side of the spectrum, 489 counties refuse to hold people for ICE, and 60 jurisdictions refuse all assistance to ICE.
The Justice Department has targeted some of those communities, sending requests this week to 23 states, counties and cities demanding they prove they are cooperating by sharing information with ICE when requested.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions had tried to force even more cooperation last year, saying communities seeking federal criminal justice grant money would have to allow ICE access to their jails.
That policy has been blocked by federal courts in San Francisco and Chicago.
Also this week Fairfax County, in Northern Virginia, announced it was canceling its formal agreement with ICE, moving closer to a sanctuary jurisdiction.
Corey Stewart, chairman of the Board of Supervisors in neighboring Prince William County, blasted Fairfax County’s sheriff for the move.
“Fairfax County Leadership have all given up their oaths to protect and serve Virginians living in Fairfax County,” Mr. Stewart said.