Sanctuary cities have come under increased scrutiny in recent months with a pledge by President Donald Trump to abolish them. However, a study of sanctuary city crime rates suggests the more liberal approach to immigration has not increased offending.
Research by the University of California released in 2016 said sanctuary city status does not impact crime.
The study was carried out by University of California, Riverside researchers along with Highline College in Des Moines, Washington.
Sanctuary cities offer some degree of protection to undocumented immigrants from federal crackdowns. For instance, police in these locations are not allowed to inquire about the immigration status of people they arrest.
Sanctuary city crime is a matter of debate
Government employees are instructed not to inquire about the immigration status of residents in these cities and told not to report undocumented workers.
These policies have been documented in Texas cities including Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Brownsville.
The latest research about sanctuary city crimes analyzed FBI crime data and other demographic information in 55 of the sanctuary cities listed by the National Immigration Law Center. The cities studied are located in 20 states and the District of Columbia.
The researchers looked at changes in the rates of violent crime, property crime, and rape in the sanctuary cities immediately after those communities passed policies more favorable to immigrants. While some cities saw rises in crime, others saw a reduction, while others saw no change in the crime rate.
Researchers said, taken together, the average change in crime rates after sanctuary city polices were introduced, was not statistically significant.
The researchers matched data from each sanctuary cities to comparable non-sanctuary cities in the same states. They compared the crime rates in the cities from 2000 through 2012. The researchers discovered some rates of property crime, violent crime, and rapes were slightly higher in sanctuary cities during certain years after the policies were adopted. However, the figures were well within the margin of error, making the relationship statistically insignificant.
The study is at odds with the claims of some politicians. Recently, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said crime has risen in “sanctuary cities” across the nation.
He told the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security that sanctuary city policies were allowing illegal immigrants to roam communities freely and to commit crimes.
During the election campaign, Trump campaigned against sanctuary cities. The issue of sanctuary city crime became a hot topic after the death of Kate Steinle. The tourist was killed by a Mexican national in San Francisco in 2015. San Francisco is a high profile sanctuary city.
However, an NPR article stated Trump’s pledge to cut federal funding to these cities is complicated by the lack of clear definition of what a sanctuary city is.
While sanctuary cities have their roots in a faith-based movement to protect Central American migrants fleeing violence in the 1980s, there has been a more recent movement since the post September 11, 2001, crackdown on immigrants.
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