The topic of “Sanctuary Cities” is a very heated one, with very vocal people on both sides of the debate. However, the argument can often be broken down into general statements:

  1.  Sanctuary Cities promote crime and an increase in undocumented immigrants, and
  2. Sanctuary Cities help *reduce* crime by encouraging undocumented immigrants to come forward without fear if they witness a crime.

Here at The 14th Minute, we are certainly pro-Sanctuary City. This does not, however, mean that we are anti-Law. This can be a difficult stance for some to take in, so before we go any further, let’s review the wikipedia entry on Sanctuary Cities:

In the United States and Canada, a sanctuary city (French: ville sanctuaire, Spanish: ciudad santuario) is a city that limits its cooperation with the national government effort to enforce immigration law. Leaders of sanctuary cities want to reduce the fear of deportation and possible family break-up among people who are in the country illegally so that such people will be more willing to report crimes, use health and social services, and enroll their children in school. Municipal policies include prohibiting police or city employees from questioning people about their immigration status and refusing requests by federal immigration authorities to detain people beyond their release date, if they were jailed for breaking local law. Such policies can be set expressly in law (de jure) or observed in practice (de facto), but the designation “sanctuary city” does not have a precise legal definition. The Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates restrictive immigration policies, estimates that about 300 U.S. jurisdictions, including cities, counties and states, have adopted sanctuary policies.

Opponents of sanctuary cities argue that cities should assist the federal government in enforcing immigration law. Supporters of sanctuary cities argue that enforcement of federal law is not the duty of localities. Legal opinions vary on whether immigration enforcement by local police is constitutional. Studies that investigated the relationship between sanctuary status and crime have found that sanctuary policies either have no effect on crime or that sanctuary cities have lower crime rates and stronger economies than comparable non-sanctuary cities.

For many (the author included), the crux of the issue, and why we support Sanctuary Cities, is two-fold:

  • Being essentially drafted by the Federal Government to assist them in doing their job places an onerous tax burden on the people of our town/county, in that law enforcement officials still have to be paid for their time. And time spent assisting the federal government is either time taken away from their regular duties keeping us safe, or overtime on top of their already exhausting rosters. In either case, these wages are paid for by us. If the Federal Government does not have enough staff to handle its workload, it should not be able to draft at-will other officers from local districts. This is a lot like having that co-worker who can’t handle his/her workload, and so you end up having to work overtime to help them get their job done.
  • Less fear in our communities. People who feel safe coming forward are people who will be of greater value to the community. If every time I went to the store to buy groceries to feed my family I felt like I could be snatched up and taken away, there’s a pretty good chance we’d be malnourished. The same applies to everything: not going to the doctor when you’re sick, out of fear, means more illnesses in our community, potentially running unchecked. It means less witnesses to crimes. Less volunteers for community events. It means less community involvement.

Nobody thinks that Federal Immigration Law should be ignored. But it should be enforced be the federal government, not forced onto already taxed law enforcement officials who also have their own jobs to do.

“But, Jim,” I can hear the objections, “Sanctuary Cities lead to MORE crime!”

Not true!

In fact, here’s some more from wikipedia on just this topic:

A 2017 study found that sanctuary policy itself has no statistically meaningful effect on crime. The findings of the study were misinterpreted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a July 2017 speech when he claimed that the study showed that sanctuary cities were more prone to crime than cities without sanctuary policies.

According to a study by Tom K. Wong, associate professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, published by the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank: “Crime is statistically significantly lower in sanctuary counties compared to nonsanctuary counties. Moreover, economies are stronger in sanctuary counties – from higher median household income, less poverty, and less reliance on public assistance to higher labor force participation, higher employment-to-population ratios, and lower unemployment.” The study also concluded that sanctuary cities build trust between local law enforcement and the community, which enhances public safety overall. The study evaluated sanctuary and non-sanctuary cities while controlling for differences in population, the foreign-born percentage of the population, and the percentage of the population that is Latino.”

Advocates of local enforcement of immigration laws argue that more regulatory local immigration policies would cause immigrants to flee those cities and possibly the United States altogether, while opponents argue that regulatory policies on immigrants wouldn’t affect their presence because immigrants looking for work will relocate towards economic opportunity despite challenges living there. Undocumented migrants tend to be attracted to states with more economic opportunity and individual freedom. Because there is no reliable data that asks for immigration status, there is no way to tell empirically if regulatory policies do have an effect on immigrant presence. A study comparing restrictive counties with nonrestrictive counties found that local jurisdictions that enacted regulatory immigration policies experienced a 1-2% negative effect in employment.

Health and well-being
A preliminary study’s results imply that the number of Sanctuary cities in the U.S. positively affects well-being in the undocumented immigrant population. Concerning health, a study in North Carolina found that after implementation of section 287(g), prenatal Hispanic/Latina mothers were more likely than non-Hispanic/Latina mothers to have late or inadequate prenatal care. The study’s interviews indicated that Hispanics/Latinos in the section 287(g) counties had distrust in health services among other services and had fear about going to the doctor.

With all this evidence, anyone claiming that Sanctuary Cities are “bad” clearly has their head in the sand. Let’s welcome the undocumented among us, and encourage them along the path to citizenship. It will only benefit everyone.