In today’s political climate, it sometimes seems as though our country is splintering into factions – especially when it comes to certain emotionally-charged and legally-complicated issues. America’s ideological fracturing is appearing along geographical lines as certain cities declare themselves “sanctuaries” for those who worry they will be separated from family members or jailed under the Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) authority.
Immigration is one of the most loaded of today’s polarizing topics, considering the current administration’s vocal abhorrence of illegal immigrants. The president’s attempt to grind down on immigrants has been met with resistance from human rights and immigration attorneys, as well as with vocal displeasure from citizens across the nation. Now, whole cities are asserting their refusal to cooperate with federal immigration authorities – and sparking a wave of debate over whether such “refuge” spaces are, in the long run, beneficial.
Both sides defend their positions fiercely. Those who oppose sanctuary cities worry that by not cooperating with federal immigration enforcement, local police are releasing criminals out onto the street to continue their crimes. President Trump himself has attempted to use this argument to push recalcitrant cities into compliance.
In January, Trump created a new office intended to work with victims of crimes committed by immigrants, and further mandated that a document listing crimes committed by undocumented immigrants be published on a weekly basis. Multiple news outlets and critics have noted that these weekly lists seem to be meant to shame sanctuary cities into compliance and slant public opinion against immigrants.
However, years of research have demonstrated that lower crime rates actually correlate with higher rates of immigration. As sensational as the president’s claims of “criminal aliens” roaming the streets might be, the facts simply don’t line up in support. Moreover, research conducted by political scientist Tom K. Wong at the University of California, San Diego, has revealed that communities that cooperate with federal immigration authorities actually have a harder time of policing and investigating crimes.
Simply put, community members who feel as though their input will lead to their deportation or detainment are unlikely to trust the authorities enough to come forward. Conversely, Wong found that communities that were noncompliant with the ICE had lower crime rates than those who worked with federal authorities, and often had lower rates of unemployment and poverty.
It can’t be denied that cities that establish positive relationships with their immigrant populations have safer and stronger communities as a whole. Clearly, harsher federal rulings are not the answer to the nation’s concerns about immigration; the current administration’s threats to punish sanctuary cities by withdrawing federal funding do more to cause chaos than bring order.
Perhaps it might be best to rephrase our questions. Rather than wondering whether sanctuary cities are beneficial to the nation as a whole, we should ask how we can instill a sanctuary’s sense of trust in the nation as a whole. We need to reform our immigration system to provide all of the country’s law-abiding inhabitants with safe, just, and trusting communities. After all, isn’t the unspoken hope of a sanctuary that the world will change, and no longer necessitate such a refuge?