In the eyes of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — or at least, in his rationale for sending dozens of migrants by plane to Martha’s Vineyard — Massachusetts is a sanctuary state. On the ground here, though, the question of whether that label fits is more complicated. As it applies to immigration policy, “sanctuary” isn’t a term with a universal legal definition, but it generally is used to refer to a state or city that limits local authorities’ cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.

Is Massachusetts a sanctuary state?

It depends on who you ask. Groups including the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which aims to reduce overall immigration levels, and the Center for Immigration Studies, which describes itself as a “pro-immigrant, low-immigration” think tank, do count Massachusetts on their lists of sanctuary states. That’s because of a July 2017 ruling from the Supreme Judicial Court that found Massachusetts law does not authorize law enforcement to hold people solely on detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) without another reason to keep them in custody.

But unlike some other states, Massachusetts doesn’t have a sanctuary state law on the books. (Oregon, for example, has touted in official statements that it “was the first state in the nation to become a sanctuary state in 1987 when legislation passed with bipartisan support.”) A bill to restrict police from asking someone’s immigration status and expressly prohibit any police officer, corrections officer or sheriff’s department employee from performing “the functions of an immigration officer” has idled for years on Beacon Hill.

In opposing a previous version of that bill, Gov. Charlie Baker said he “does not support making the commonwealth a sanctuary state.” That was in June 2017, a month before the Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling. But even after the ruling, while accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for governor in 2018, Baker used his opponents’ support for making Massachusetts a sanctuary state as a way to contrast himself against the Democrats in the race.

Politicians apply the phrase differently for their own points. This year’s Republican nominee for governor, Geoff Diehl, and his running mate, Leah Allen, referred to Massachusetts as a sanctuary state in a statement challenging their Democratic opponents Maura Healey and Kim Driscoll to condemn “any state policy that supports, aids, and abets illegal immigration and makes our state a favored destination for illegal immigrants” — including a recent law, now subject to a repeal campaign, making people without legal immigration status eligible to apply for driver’s licenses.

What about sanctuary cities?

Massachusetts is a state that, broadly speaking, believes in local control. The ACLU of Massachusetts says dozens of Massachusetts communities have implemented some type of policy limiting local collaboration with federal deportation efforts, including Medford and Lexington. Municipal approaches vary in degree and specifics.

Boston's Trust Act prohibits the use of city money or personnel to interrogate, detain or arrest someone for immigration enforcement purposes that are otherwise ICE’s responsibility. Cambridge declared itself a sanctuary city in 1985, and reaffirmed that status in 2006. It’s not just Boston-area cities — a 2014 executive order in Northampton directed police not to honor or enforce ICE detainer requests, and Amherst residents passed a sanctuary community bylaw at Town Meeting in 2017.

Will Massachusetts pass a sanctuary state law?

Not this year, at least. Baker has continued to oppose the immigration-enforcement bill, and lawmakers are meeting for the rest of the term in informal sessions, where they can’t take the votes necessary to override a veto (if they could muster them). The bill, which supporters refer to as the Safe Communities Act, earned an endorsement in June from the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, but top Democrats didn’t move it to the floor before formal sessions wrapped up at the end of July.

In a Legislature that passes many bills unanimously or close to it, this has proven to be a tougher topic to find consensus on over the past several years. A number of variables will help shape how next term’s debate plays out — the stances held by a new governor, the results of the license-law repeal campaign on the November ballot and how things proceed for the group of immigrants now in temporary housing at Joint Base Cape Cod.