WASHINGTON—New York City has long been considered America’s top big city in terms of population, economy and other factors. Now it has a new distinction as America’s Worst Sanctuary City, based on data compiled by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI).
The Big Apple was the second-worst sanctuary community in IRLI’s last such ranking in 2019. Since then, the city has doubled down on its dangerous sanctuary policies to earn the shameful top position.
These communities have earned their places on this list because of incredibly poor leadership at the city, county and state levels. Data overwhelmingly shows that sanctuary policies lead to more crime, fear and death. The leaders of these communities should not escape accountability for the damage they have caused. Their residents deserve much more.
“Sanctuary policies only provide sanctuary to criminals, not to immigrant communities,” said Tom Homan, IRLI senior fellow and former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “Immigrant communities don’t want criminals in their neighborhoods either. Victims and witnesses of crime don’t want the offender back in their communities to seek revenge. All communities deserve protection from criminals but sanctuary policies put immigrant communities at greater risk of crime.”
Sanctuary communities refuse to cooperate with ICE to remove dangerous criminal aliens. They instead release criminal aliens, endangering people in the community, as well as the country at large. Because of its brazen defiance of federal immigration laws, sanctuary communities often attract other criminal aliens who make those communities more dangerous to other illegal aliens as well as legal residents.
The rankings for IRLI’s 2022 list of America’s Worst Sanctuary Communities and supporting information for each community are below.
1. New York City, New York
2. Los Angeles, California
3. Chicago, Illinois
4. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
5. San Francisco, California
6. Minneapolis, Minnesota
7. Seattle, Washington
8. Wake County, North Carolina
9. Middlesex County, New Jersey
10. Portland, Oregon
#1 – New York, New York
Mayor: Eric Adams
Despite new mayor and former New York Police Department (NYPD) officer Eric Adams’s pledge to crack down on rampant crime, New York is paying a terrible price for former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s eight years of supporting radical sanctuary policies.
The New York City Council passed legislation this year granting noncitizens the right to vote in local elections. The bill was supported by the recently-inaugurated Adams. Despite his tough-on-crime rhetoric, Adams has supported New York’s sanctuary status and continued de Blasio’s pro-illegal alien policies.
A New York state court later struck down the noncitizen voting law, ruling that allowing noncitizens to vote violates the state constitution. The Immigration Reform Law Institute filed a brief with the court in opposition to the law.
ICE issued subpoenas in January 2020 to obtain information about criminal illegal aliens being shielded by New York City officials. The agency also announced in 2020 the arrests of 54 illegal aliens in the New York City area. Some of those arrested were charged with grievous crimes, including rape, sexual assault against a minor, and robbery, among other offenses.
In 2019, New York released more than 7,500 illegal aliens back into the streets, including some with murder and sex abuse convictions. In the same year, the city banned the legally correct term “illegal alien,” threatening fines of up to $250,000 for violators.
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents New York’s 14th district in the city, has called for the abolishment of ICE and described border detention facilities as “concentration camps.”
#2- Los Angeles, California
Mayor: Eric Garcetti
Los Angeles has become a safe haven for criminals of all stripes since District Attorney George Gascon was sworn into office in late 2020. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in an interview earlier this year that crime has become “profitable” under Gascon’s leadership.
“We’re having people [from] out of county, out of state, coming here to L.A. to do home invasion robberies, burglaries,” the sheriff said. “Foreign nationals [are] coming here to do burglaries.”
However, Villanueva also announced and supported a permanent ban on ICE transfers in 2020, saying that “There is no greater threat to public safety than a million undocumented immigrants who are afraid to report crime.”
If illegal aliens are afraid to report a crime, it is more because of scare tactics by anti-borders politicians than agency policies. Those here illegally who report a crime against them not only are not deported, they can also get special protective status. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offers a U visa as a set-aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered abuse and then are helpful to law enforcement in an investigation.
Los Angeles County voted in 2020 to pay $14 million to illegal aliens who had previously been held in detention. Also that year, ICE lodged an immigration detainer on a Salvadoran national serving time for a murder conviction. The request was not honored, and Carlos Morales-Ramirez was released onto the streets, then convicted of second-degree murder.
Mayor Eric Garcetti released a video in 2019 promising to defy the Trump Administration and federal immigration authorities.
“I want you to know, you do not need to be afraid. Your city is on your side, and rest assured, here in Los Angeles we are not coordinating with ICE,” Garcetti said.
In fiscal year 2019, ICE wanted to arrest 11,000 illegal aliens in Los Angeles, but only five percent were turned over. The following year, a report from the Washington Examiner found that Los Angeles jails had refused to turn over more than 25,000 criminal illegal aliens.
“When a law enforcement agency fails to honor these immigration detainers and releases serious criminal offenders back onto the streets, it undermines our ability to protect public safety and carry out our national security mission,” Dave Marin, ICE’s ERO Los Angeles Field Office Director said.
ICE arrested a 40-year-old citizen of El Salvador in 2020 who had been released onto the streets despite being convicted of first-degree murder in 2009. In 2021 and 2022, 84.2 percent of illegal aliens ICE sought to remove from California were allowed to stay.
#3 – Chicago, Illinois
Mayor: Lori Lightfoot
On Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s watch, Chicago has become a lawless hellscape, where weekends of double-digit shooting victims are the norm. City police have arrested the fewest number of suspects in at least 20 years, and last year Chicago broke a 25-year record when it had more than 800 homicides.
Even while dealing with a record crime wave, Chicago has maintained its commitment to be a haven for criminal aliens seeking to avoid accountability from federal immigration laws.
In 2020, as her city was dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, Lightfoot signed an executive order making illegal aliens eligible for all city benefits.
In the midst of the city’s historic crime surge, Lightfoot signed a city ordinance which prohibited city officials from cooperating with ICE to detain illegal aliens, even if the alien is in the city’s gang database or is facing criminal charges.
In 2019, Cook County District Attorney Kimberly Foxx hired a Policy and Legal Advisor, Michael Kasprzynski, who worked to shield criminal illegal aliens from deportation.
ICE arrested 88 illegal aliens in the Chicago area in a massive sweep in 2020. Many of the aliens arrested had violent criminal histories, including some with murder and rape convictions.
“These terrible policies protect dangerous criminals and street gang members over Chicago’s own citizens,” said Tony Pham, ICE’s senior official performing the duties of the director at the time.
Illinois began offering free healthcare to some illegal aliens this year. The state also has one of the largest senior illegal alien populations in the country, which is expected to reach as high as 55,000 by 2030, according to some estimates.
#4 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mayor: Jim Kenney
Philadelphia has been in the news mostly for its George Soros-funded District Attorney Larry Krasner and his agenda to empty out the city’s jails and give light sentences to violent offenders. At the same time, his office has pushed for increasingly dangerous sanctuary policies.
In 2021, an IRLI investigation revealed the extent to which Krasner was turning Philadelphia into a magnet for criminal aliens. Shortly after assuming office, Krasner appointed immigration attorney Caleb Arnold to consult on criminal cases involving non-citizens. IRLI’s investigation showed that Arnold “has consulted with noncitizen defendants who have been charged with rape, murder, rape of a child, forcible rape, sexual assault, unlawful contact of a minor, attempted murder, among other crimes.”
In 2020, ICE released a scathing statement criticizing the city’s refusal to honor an ICE detainer on a 36-year-old Mexican national with a lengthy criminal history, which included arrests for assault, terroristic threats, and robbery, among other crimes. The city defended its sanctuary policies, accusing the Trump White House of attempting to “coerce” them to end the policy.
This year an exasperated Mayor Jim Kenney said the onslaught of crime in his city has rendered his life joyless, and that he looks forward to his term ending in January 2024.
“I’ll be happy when I’m not here — when I’m not mayor and I can enjoy some stuff,” Kenney said.
While Krasner’s conduct has garnered the bulk of media attention, Kenney has been an enthusiastic participant in the city’s decline. This could be seen in the 2018 viral video of him dancing at the news that Philadelphia was officially a sanctuary city.
#5 – San Francisco, California
Mayor: London Breed
San Francisco earned the shame of being named America’s Worst Sanctuary Community in IRLI’s 2019 ranking. Its fifth position this time is not indicative of improvement in the City by the Bay, but that the cities above it have become comparatively worse.
In 2019, San Francisco voters elected radical anti-borders advocate Chesa Boudin as its new district attorney. During his campaign, Boudin vowed to create a unit to help criminal illegal aliens avoid deportation, and called for ICE agents who enforce federal immigration law to be prosecuted. During his reign, San Francisco became even more of a hotbed for criminal illegal alien activity, with Boudin admitting that potentially as many as half the people selling drugs in San Francisco were from Honduras.
Boudin and his allies lashed out at ICE for doing its job when its agents arrested three illegal aliens outside a San Francisco courthouse in 2020. Mayor London Breed accused the Trump Administration of attempting to “ignite fear in our communities,” following the arrests.
San Francisco residents voted this year to remove Boudin from office due to his soft-on-crime policies and their disastrous results. Breed replaced him with Brooke Jenkins, a critic of Boudin who has promised a better balance of law enforcement and criminal justice reforms.
In 2021, Carlos Claros, an illegal alien living in San Francisco, was accused of attempting to rob a family of 18 people at gunpoint. Claros had a lengthy criminal history, but was repeatedly shielded from consequences by the city’s sanctuary policies.
Prior to the passage of SB 54 making California a sanctuary state, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department refused to honor over 530 immigration holds, 345 of which ICE classified as threat level 1 and 2 offenses. These offenses include, but are not limited to, espionage, terrorist threats, arson/incendiary devices, bombing offenses, homicide, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, sale and possession of drugs, money laundering, burglary, fraud, and forgery.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who represents California’s 12th district in San Francisco, has long criticized ICE’s efforts to deport criminal aliens, asking, “In terms of interior enforcement, what is the purpose? What is the point?” When President Trump described violent MS-13 gang members as “animals,” Pelosi replied, “There’s a spark of divinity in every person on Earth.”
#6 – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Mayor: Jacob Frey
Even after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the ensuing riots and the failed experiment to defund the police, Minneapolis has remained focused in its mission to welcome criminal aliens and make the community inherently more dangerous.
In 2020, ICE removed 39 Somali nationals from the Minneapolis area, 36 of whom had criminal backgrounds. They had records of crimes that included murder, rape, domestic violence, and drug and terror-related crimes. The following year, it was reported that the Hennepin County Sheriff’s office was no longer honoring some immigration detainers.
IRLI found that the Hennepin County Jail failed to honor over 90 ICE detainer requests over a 16-month period beginning in October 2015. ICE classified over 40 of them as threat level 1 and 2 offenses, of which 26 percent of the detainer requests were for criminal illegal aliens from Somalia.
In 2021, an illegal alien from Cuba living in Minneapolis was accused of beheading his girlfriend with a machete. The alleged killer was already facing charges for arson and property damage, and had previously been convicted of domestic violence.
An illegal alien in Minneapolis was given a generous 45-month plea deal this year after a carjacking conviction. He had previously been convicted of serious crimes, including first-degree aggravated robbery, but was allowed to remain in the country.
#7 – Seattle, Washington
Mayor: Jenny Durkan
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the city of Seattle asked the Washington State government to create a $100 million relief fund for illegal aliens. Later that year, far-left activists in CHAZ, Seattle’s infamous “autonomous zone,” listed the legalization of tens of millions of illegal aliens as part of their demands.
It was revealed in training documents from the King County Department of Equity and Social Justice this year that the department has been advising criminal illegal aliens on how to avoid consequences for their crimes. Two Seattle residents were the subject of criminal complaints to the Justice Department after being accused of transporting illegal aliens into the country from Canada.
In 2019, Washington became the third sanctuary state in the country, joining California and Oregon. There are reportedly 229,000 illegal aliens living in the state of Washington, including roughly 75,000 in the Seattle area.
An IRLI investigation in July 2019 found that the Seattle area’s King County Sheriff’s Office refused over 370 ICE detainer requests on illegal aliens in a 27-month period ending on December 31, 2017. Over 290 of the cases were for threat level 1 and 2 offenses.
#8 – Wake County, North Carolina
County Manager: David Ellis
Wake County may as well be called “woke county.”
In 2018, shortly after Sheriff Gerald Baker took office, 16 foreign nationals under ICE detainers were released from the county’s jails.
An IRLI investigation found a rise in overall violent crime the year after Baker cancelled the cooperation agreement between ICE and the county to remove criminal aliens from the community.
ICE announced in 2019 that Wake County criminal offenders were being shielded because the county was refusing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Many of those with ICE detainers were charged with heinous crimes, including first-degree rape of a child, indecent liberties with a child, and felony possession of a Schedule I controlled substance, among others.
That same year, ICE blasted Baker after he released a registered sex offender who was in the country illegally. The offender, Furmencio Miranda-Cortazar, was allowed to walk free after being convicted of sexual battery against a 13-year-old girl.
According to ICE, local authorities across the state of North Carolina refused to honor nearly 500 detainers in 2019. Roy Cooper, the state’s Democratic governor, vetoed a bill that would’ve cracked down on sanctuary counties.
In 2020, nearly 200 suspected illegal immigrants were released from Wake County jail, according to local officials.
In the last 12 months, Wake County detention facilities admitted over 32,000 detainees. Approximately one-third, or 12,000, of these admissions bonded out almost immediately or received conditions of release.
#9 – Middlesex County, New Jersey
An IRLI investigation in 2018 found that the county is “a revolving door for criminal aliens.” IRLI’s investigation found that the Middlesex County Jail refused to honor 92 immigration holds over a 20-month period, 52 of which were classified by ICE as Level 1 and Level 2 offenses.
One of the beneficiaries of Middlesex’s sanctuary policies was a 23-year-old man named Luis Rodrigo Perez, a DACA recipient who allegedly murdered three people in 2018 after being released from a Middlesex County jail. His trial ended in June of this year and is awaiting the judge’s decision.
In 2017, ICE arrested 36 criminal illegal aliens in Middlesex County who had previously been released from local prisons back into the community. The offenses included convictions for crimes including sexual assault, burglary, and drug charges, among others.
The Middlesex County Board of Freeholders ordered the sheriff’s office in 2017 not to assist federal immigration authorities.
In 2018, an ICE operation led to the arrest of 37 criminal illegal aliens, some of whom had been charged and convicted of domestic violence, aggravated criminal sexual contact, and endangering the welfare of a child, among other offenses.
#10- Portland, Oregon
Mayor: Ted Wheeler
The state of Oregon launched a hotline this year to encourage citizens to report violations of the state’s sanctuary law.
“For the first time, any person in Oregon can report a sanctuary law violation to a hotline designed to support and meet our communities’ needs,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said. “We intend to follow up on every single call and urge all Oregonians to be aware of and use this new resource.”
The state of Oregon last year passed the “Sanctuary Promise Act,” which further enhanced the state’s sanctuary status, and added more restrictions to prevent state and local officials from cooperating with immigration enforcement. The law prohibits local law enforcement and other public entities from gathering and sharing immigration information with federal immigration authorities or otherwise assisting immigration law enforcement.
ICE issued subpoenas in 2020 to demand information about criminal illegal aliens that Portland was harboring.
In 2018, Portland officials refused to honor an ICE detainer on an illegal alien facing domestic violence allegations. That alien was later accused of killing his wife and dumping her body in a river.
When President Donald Trump threatened to bus illegal aliens to sanctuary cities in 2019, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he would welcome them.
In 2019, a Portland county refused to honor an ICE detainer on an illegal alien who was convicted of raping his fiancé’s dog to death. That same year, a criminal illegal alien wanted for killing a motorist fled after Portland officials refused to honor an ICE detainer lodged on him.
Dale L. Wilcox is executive director and general counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration. IRLI’s worst of the worst list shows the tragic cost of woke mayors and their anti-borders agenda.