You’re Safer in a ‘Sanctuary City,’ says New Study

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Los Angeles march for immigrant rights, 2013. Photo by Molly Adams via Flickr

In a rebuttal to government claims that “sanctuary” cities are breeding grounds for crime driven by undocumented immigrants, a new study says that residents of areas where authorities limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities are safer from violent death.

The study by the San Francisco-based Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) compared 2015 crime figures in 33 large central metropolitan counties where some form of sanctuary policies are in effect (including 12 who do not cooperate at all with federal immigration authorities)—representing over 50 million Americans—with 35 counties with no sanctuary policies, with some 40 million Americans.

It found that white residents in particular were 26 percent less likely to die from illicit drug overdoses; 33 percent were less likely to die from all violent causes. Moreover, some 53 percent of white residents of those counties were less likely to be victims of homicide, and 62 percent less likely to die from gun violence than their white counterparts elsewhere.

“The impact of sanctuary cities on people of color is less consistent,” noted study author Mike Males, a senior research fellow with CJCJ.

“But overall, African-American, Latino, Asian, and Native American residents generally experience greater safety in countries with at least some sanctuary policies.”

He added: “Urban sanctuary and partial sanctuary counties have more racially diverse populations and are generally safer from violent death, whether self-inflicted or by others, than urban countries without established sanctuary policies.”

Males cautioned that the figures do not prove that sanctuary policies “directly contribute” to community safety; but he said arguments that reduced cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities is associated with deadly consequences, “particularly for urban, white residents” were disproved by his findings.

Males noted that polls suggest that although half of Americans support sanctuary policies, white respondents were least likely to support them, reflecting the rhetoric promoted by the White House and the Department of Justice that undocumented immigrants were responsible for disproportionate rates of criminal activity—particularly violent crime and illicit drug trafficking—and have cost “countless innocent American lives.”

Last June, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act”—which would prevent cities and states that decline to assist ICE from participating in some federal grant programs. The legislation is still pending.

Focusing on the 12 urban counties where sanctuary policies are fully in effect, Males found that rates of homicide for whites are 31 per cent lower—and gun deaths are 59 percent lower—than in the country as a whole.

Cities with full sanctuary policies include New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.

Authorities in those cities often explain their refusal to provide assistance to ICE in reporting undocumented immigrants by saying it improves public safety.  They argue that it reassures residents that they can report crimes or assist police in investigations without worrying about whether their immigration status makes them vulnerable to deportation.

A complete copy of the report, along with tables, is available for downloading here.

2 thoughts on “You’re Safer in a ‘Sanctuary City,’ says New Study

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