What Exactly Is A Sanctuary City? You May Be Surprised

Do sanctuary cities allow more criminals out on the street? The statistics show that to be inaccurate. Actually, Sanctuary cities have a lower crime rate.

To better define the term, “Sanctuary Cities” is actually a misnomer. Americans believe that it refers to a city that doesn’t prosecute immigrants, so-called “sanctuary cities” actually refer to something far more specific.
There’s no one definition of what is a sanctuary city, it’s a city (or a county, or a state) that limits its cooperation with federal immigration enforcement agents in order to protect low-priority immigrants from deportation, but still turns over those who have committed serious crimes. This is why the more accurate term is “safe cities”.

It turns out that illegal immigrants actually are more likely to cooperate with authorities if they don’t live in fear of being deported. This is a very important distinction.

Unfortunately, those who don’t agree say that the policy allows dangerous criminals into the country, and Steinle’s killer being one example and tragic, but the exception.

Important distinction

Here is how the law is written according to the U.S. Constitution: Being undocumented alone is not a crime. It’s a civil violation. Those who are undocumented immigrants in the United States have rights under our U.S. Constitution. Our due process states that the police cannot hold anyone who hasn’t at been suspected of a crime. While being in the country illegally is still a crime, the law may define a “criminal act” much more egregious beyond being in the U.S illegally.

For example, these words, from Section One of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution rank along with the Constitution’s Bill of Rights as — in these precincts — the most important in the world and American history:

“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court settled the issue well over a century ago. But even before the court laid the issue to rest, a principal author of the Constitution, James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, wrote: “that as they [aliens], owe, on the one hand, a temporary obedience, they are entitled, in return, to their [constitutional] protection and advantage.”

In an article by Stephen Dinan of The Washington Times, almost 500 jurisdictions are now sanctuary cities.

The Ohio Jobs & Justice Political Action Committee has added more than three dozen new cities and counties to its list in 2017 alone, as jurisdictions rush to try to shield illegal immigrants from what they expect to be a new push for deportations under Mr. Trump.

“More will be coming,” said Steve Salvi, founder of OJJ. “A lot of communities now see the benefits of becoming sanctuary cities. Many citizens groups encouraging city councils to pass them.”

The way it works is this: A sanctuary city comes into play when an undocumented immigrant has an interaction with the police. Say someone is speeding, has a broken taillight, or has a broken license plate light, and is pulled over. If this person is undocumented there is a good chance they do not have a valid driver’s license. Immigrants still have to get to work and school somehow – but being found without a valid driver’s license can get an individual arrested.

The case about Alex

“Here’s a real-life example: “Alex” is someone who is in the US without papers (and who is not a Dreamer). One day, Alex gets pulled over by the police because his taillight is broken. The police find out that he has no driver’s license. They take Alex and put him in jail overnight because of the driver’s license infraction; however, Alex has no criminal record. While Alex is in jail, the police put his information into the federal database shared with ICE, and ICE puts a hold / detainer on him.”

Don’t forget, Alex is in jail for a driver’s license infraction and has not committed any other crimes. Again, the fact that he is an undocumented immigrant is not a criminal offense. The police can hold him for what he’s done — drive without a license. Yet holding him past the time when he should be released, just so that immigration agents can come pick him up, is unconstitutional.

If Alex does live in a sanctuary city, the police would recognize that Alex has not committed any serious crimes and release him after his one night in jail. That’s what they’re supposed to do. That’s why some also suggest that we call sanctuary cities “constitutional cities”.

Reporting crime

One of the most compelling reasons to have a sanctuary city is for illegal immigrants to be safe by reporting crime and not fear being deported if they do so.

By not putting police in the position of immigration officials, then police can focus on going after serious criminals. Communities want undocumented to trust police and report crime, give tips or testify as witnesses.

Research backs this up; one analysis has shown that sanctuary cities see 15 percent less crime than non-sanctuary cities. Another found that two-thirds of the cities that had the highest jumps in murder rates in 2016 were not sanctuary cities – in fact, they are the opposite, generally eager to hold immigrants for ICE pick-up and detention.

Safer and more prosperous communities

Think Progress statistically matched counties demographic characteristics and then compared sanctuary counties to non-sanctuary counties to understand the effects that sanctuary policies have on a local jurisdiction.
Among the main findings of sanctuary cities:

• There are, on average, 35.5 fewer crimes committed per 10,000 people in sanctuary counties compared to non-sanctuary counties.
• Median household annual income is, on average, $4,353 higher in sanctuary counties compared to non-sanctuary counties
• The poverty rate is 2.3 percent lower, on average, in sanctuary counties compared to non-sanctuary counties.
• Unemployment is, on average, 1.1 percent lower in sanctuary counties compared to non-sanctuary counties.
• While the results hold true across sanctuary jurisdictions, the sanctuary counties with the smallest populations see the most pronounced effects.

Police departments support sanctuary policies

This is why law enforcement across the board support sanctuary city policies. That includes the Fraternal Order of Police, a membership organization which endorsed Donald Trump in the 2016 election but has since told him to back off the idea of punishing cities or their police departments for immigrant-friendly sanctuary policies.
With an estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States, talk of a crackdown on illegal immigration has created tension in cities across the country.

For example, in Tucson, an undocumented man confronted and physically struggled with a man who tried to steal a car with children inside. The immigrant held the criminal long enough for local police to arrive, then cooperated with detectives in the follow-up investigation. As a result, the suspect was charged with kidnapping, auto theft and burglary.

This is a perfect example of an undocumented man coming to the aid of a family and did so easily as he wasn’t afraid of being arrested and deported.

We have more than enough evidence to support sanctuary cities.


  • Brian Terrell says:

    I think you mean “exception” at the end of paragraph 5, not acceptation. But you might mean you accept criminal aliens back into the country to commit crimes. I don’t know, because you seem to think sanctuary cities are great.

    • Geri Spieler says:

      Hi Brian: Thanks for the catch. I will edit it. In terms of sanctuary cities being great, my goal was to research what they are really about. I think many don’t understand the reason for them, and that there are so many in our country? I wanted to understand them and share that knowledge. If you clicked on the likes or paid attention to the references, you will see that these are not my words, but the facts I dug up.

    • Nanci Woody says:

      Brian. There is less crime in a sanctuary city, so your comment doesn’t make sense. And, police turn over to immigration officials those undocumented people who have committed serious crimes.

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