Researchers at Stanford University published a study that may bolster the argument that policies aimed at encouraging immigrants to come out of the shadows improve public safety, NPR reports. They found that a 2013 California law granting driver’s licenses to immigrants in the U.S. illegally reduced hit-and-run accidents by 7 to 10 percent in 2015, meaning roughly 4,000 fewer hit-and-runs. In that same year, 600,000 people got driver’s licenses under the law. It was the first research on the effectiveness of such driver’s license laws, which have generated significant controversy. Opponents argue that granting licenses to immigrants in the U.S. illegally is dangerous.
President Trump has often argued that those who oppose a federal crackdown on illegal immigration do so at the expense of public safety. This idea was central to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement that the federal government intended to withhold funds from cities that adopt so-called sanctuary policies aimed at shielding immigrants in the U.S. illegally. “These policies,” he said, “endanger the lives of every American.” In fact, research has shows that cities that adopt sanctuary policies tend to be safer than those that don’t, because immigrants not fearful that a routine interaction with their local police could end in their deportation are more likely to report crimes. Stanford researchers said their findings “suggest that, if anything, providing unauthorized immigrants access to driver’s licenses reduced their incentives to flee the scene of an accident,” said authors Hans Lueders, Jens Hainmueller and Duncan Lawrence.