Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Closer Look At Sanctuary Cities

My hometown has recently begun considering whether or not to designate our city as a 'sanctuary city.' Considering the controversy this has raised, I decided to do some research on a topic I knew little about.

One thing is for sure: this is a confusing topic. There are remarkably contradictory studies quoted by equally passionate people, and there is a lot of dishonest reporting that distorts the facts (which is why both sides quote the same studies in some cases). I found more than one case where an article linking to a study totally misrepresented the study.

I will do my best to offer relevant facts, a variety of perspectives on how those facts are interpreted, and a summary of some issues that make the pursuit of truth and justice difficult but not impossible. I am not an expert. I'm just a guy wanting to find the truth.

* * * * *

WHAT IS A SANCTUARY CITY?

“Sanctuary city” is a term that is applied by some to cities in the United States or Canada that have policies designed to not prosecute illegal aliens. The term generally applies to cities that do not allow municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about an individual's immigration status.” 

  • "Policies or laws that limit the extent to which law enforcement will go to assist the federal government on immigration matters.
  • Policies that disregard requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold indefinitely immigrant inmates beyond their detention dates…
  • Policies that bar local police from asking for proof of citizenship and from arresting immigrants who lack documentation unless they are suspected of committing other criminal offenses."
Basically, local authorities in a sanctuary city will not try to track down illegal immigrants simply for being here illegally, and they will not donate time or resources to helping the federal government’s search. However, this does not mean what happens in that city happens in a law enforcement vacuum. 

When illegal immigrants are arrested and detained, their fingerprints are entered into a federal database that clarifies their status (and puts them on ICE's radar). ICE can ask local law enforcement to hold detainees who are here illegally, but they cannot require them to do so. Sanctuary cities still detain those they arrest by whatever standards they use for the crime, but not beyond what is warranted for the purposes of ICE. 

In addition, individual local law enforcement officers are free to tell the federal authorities information if they wish too. This right is protected by law.  In Chicago, which passed a sanctuary ordinance in 2012, “police can work with ICE to detain immigrants who have a pending felony prosecution or are listed in the police gang database.” Travis County, Texas, makes exceptions for murder, capital murder, aggravated sexual assault, and human trafficking.

HISTORY OF SANCTUARY CITIES

A Forbes article entitled “Defending The Ancient Concept Of the Sanctuary City” offers a brief but sufficient overview. Sanctuary cities were developed by Jews, Romans and Greeks. In the Roman empire, the early Christian church quickly began to grant sanctuary for those fleeing exile, slavery, or corporal or capital punishment. This was not without precedent in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The writer of the book of Numbers records this command: "You shall designate three cities beyond the Jordan and three cities in the land of Canaan to be cities of refuge. These six cities shall serve as a refuge for the Israelites. For the resident or transient alien among them" (Numbers 35:14). Some early church councils, in a bold move in the face of the Roman state, declared that churches and their leadership had a right to protect criminals. This continued well into the Middle Ages.

While sanctuary cities for refugees have ancient roots, the modern movement of states or cities offering refuge probably started when the Calvinists in France were given sanctuary. The United States has perhaps in some sense always been a place of sanctuary for the persecuted and oppressed starting with the Puritans fleeing persecution. Churches and entire Northern cities offered sanctuary to runaway slaves during the Civil War; during the Civil Rights era and the Vietnam War, civil rights works and men dodging the draft were often given sanctuary. 

“The sanctuary movement grew out of efforts by churches in the 1980s to provide safe havens for those fleeing violence in Central America. The logic behind sanctuary cities is that encouraging immigrants to work with police without fear of deportation helps authorities improve public safety.”   
You can read more details about the origin here. By 1987, 440 cities in the United States were sanctuary cities, and many houses of worship took in refugees. Generally, immigration authorities let them be.

ARE ALL UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS AUTOMATICALLY CRIMINALS?

Immigrants may be undocumented because they cross the border illegally or overstay the extent of a legal visit.  The former is 'improper entry,' which is a misdemeanor under federal criminal law; the latter is 'unlawful presence,' which is a civil violation punishable by civil penalties. As of last year, 40% of undocumented immigrants were categorized under "unlawful presence." Meanwhile, the flow of illegal immigration into and from the United States at our southwestern border is at a net zero right now.

The lack of documentation does not automatically equal criminality, though it would at least be a civil violation (other examples of civil law violations include breach of contract, negligence, warranty issues, medical malpractice, etc). Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, in reference to a proposed immigration law in Arizone: "As a general rule, it is not a crime for a movable alien to remain in the United States.”

In both cases, the undocumented immigrants might be able to remain in the U.S. for various reasons, such as having a valid claim for asylum, Temporary Protected Status, or something similar. Those who are here as students or who have close family members here have historically been ignored in favor of focusing on those who pose a risk.

REASONS FOR IMPROPER ENTRY OR UNLAWFUL PRESENCE
A common question is, "Why can't those looking to join family or work just get in line?" Many do, but for those who are desperate to get out of bad situations, it's just not that simple. Surveys show that as high as 98% want to be here legally, but they face seemingly impossible hurdles and occasionally irrational policies that actually promote an illegal over a legal entrance at times. The following two quotes offer examples of both.
“A Mexican (or a Guatemalan, a Filipino, a Pole, or folks from many other countries) who does not have a college degree and has no close relatives who are U.S. citizens or green card-holders, there is almost certainly no line for them to wait in: without reform to the legal system, they will not be able to migrate “the legal way” to the U.S., not if they wait ten years, not if they wait fifty years. But if they manage to come unlawfully—and historically we have not made it so difficult to do so, though our borders are much more secure now than they have ever been—they will almost certainly find work—because even in a time of high unemployment, there are certain jobs that most Americans have not proven willing to do. For individuals living in poverty, desperate to support their families, that has been an attractive option. Everyone would prefer to pay a reasonable fee and be granted a visa, but that has not been an option for most of those presently here unlawfully.” http://g92.org/find-answers/process/  
"In March 2017, the U.S. government was still processing some family-sponsored visa applications dating to August 1993, and some employment-related visa applications from March 2005." http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/frequently-requested-statistics-immigrants-and-immigration-united-states#Unauthorized 
"If someone filed paperwork for a relative before April 30, 2001, and they come here illegally and don't get caught before their visa comes up, they can get a green card. If, however, your relative filed an application for you after 2001, if you stay here, even if you don't get caught until your visa comes up, you can't get a green card because you made an illegal entry… If you are an asylum seeker and you present yourself at the border and say, 'I'm seeking asylum,' they will immediately take you to detention, because that person is what is called an arriving alien. Arriving aliens are subject to mandatory detention and can't get bond. There is no provision for bond. But if you cross the border illegally and are apprehended somewhere inside the border, then you're not considered an arriving alien and are eligible for bond. Does that make any sense?" http://www.alternet.org/story/148088/why_becoming_a_legal_immigrant_is_next_to_impossible
To get an idea of how complicated it is to get here legally, check out this graph. For those escaping legitimate hardship or wanting to join family, the reality of legal immigration is daunting. 

ARE SANCTUARY CITIES LEGAL?

 “The anemic federal government of the 1790s needed state help to enforce its laws. Congressional statutes assumed state cooperation, as did the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793. But by the 1810s and 20s, such cooperation began to look increasingly like coercion, especially to southerners who were making much of the sanctity of states’ rights. An attempt to revise the Fugitive Slave Act in 1818 led to failure, in part, because the proposed bill required state officers to enforce federal law. This violated contemporary understandings of dual sovereignty—the idea that federal and state governments were each sovereign in their sphere, and that the spheres were entirely separate. Congress might direct federal law enforcement officers and judges, but they could not direct state officers, and vice versa.”  
“ In Prigg v. Pennsylvania (1842), the Court cemented the principle of dual sovereignty in constitutional law. Fugitive slaves (like immigrants and refugees today) were deemed a matter of federal, rather than state, interest. This meant that the states could pass no laws, whether ones protecting the legal rights of fugitive slaves or aiding in their removal. But on the same constitutional principle, the Court reaffirmed that Congress could not compel state officers to enforce federal law.” 
Interestingly, the NRA successfully opposed to the Brady Handgun Bill in the mid-1990s on this legal basis. 

Not everyone sees these rulings as sufficient justification. James Walsh, an associate general counsel of Immigration and Naturalization Services, says that other laws apply to those who "knowingly conceal, harbor, or shield undocumented aliens and could apply to officials in sanctuary cities and states."  Others are concerned that this kind of opposition is duplicitous. We don’t tolerate states rejecting federal orders in othersituations; why would we in this case?
“Much of the rural West opposes the Endangered Species Act. Can Wyoming declare that federally protected rats and bugs are not protected inside its state borders, when such pests obstruct construction of dams or highways? Many conservatives oppose federal restrictions on gun sales. Could Oklahoma City declare hand-gun purchases within its city-limits free of federal firearms statutes? Perhaps Little Rock could ignore a Supreme Court ruling and announce that gay marriage is not legal within its jurisdiction. On what rationale would liberals in California object to such nullifications -- that neither state nor city had the right to ignore a federal law or to obstruct the law enforcement duties of federal officials.”
Judge Andrew Napolitano says the answer to the question of whether or not sanctuary cities are legal is both 'yes' and 'no' (and I must quote at length here to capture his summary effectively).
The term “sanctuary cities” is not a legal term, but it has been applied by those in government and the media to describe municipalities that offer expanded social services to the undocumented and decline to help the feds find them… As unwise as these expenditures may be by cities that are essentially bankrupt and rely on federal largesse in order to remain in the black, they are not unlawful. Cities and towns are free to expand the availability of social services however they please, taking into account the local political climate.


Enter the Supreme Court. It has required the states -- and thus the municipalities in them -- to make social services available to everyone resident within them, irrespective of citizenry or lawful or unlawful immigration status. This is so because the constitutional command to the states of equal protection applies to all persons, not just to citizens. So the states and municipalities may not deny basic social services to anyone based on nationality or immigration status. 


The high court has also prohibited the federal government from “commandeering” the states by forcing them to work for the feds at their own expense by actively enforcing federal law. As Ronald Reagan reminded us in his first inaugural address, the states formed the federal government, not the other way around. They did so by ceding 16 discrete powers to the federal government and retaining to themselves all powers not ceded…  By dividing powers between the feds and the states -- and by separating federal powers among the president, Congress and the courts -- our system intentionally makes the exercise of governmental power cumbersome by diffusing it. And since government is essentially the negation of freedom, the diffusion of governmental powers helps to maximize personal liberty. 
Some final observations worth noting just to show the complexity of this issue:
"Many small town departments were already uncomfortable with the prospect of jailing immigrants on minor traffic infractions. The issue became even more fraught when honoring an 'ICE detainer' request meant jailing a person without a warrant. The dominoes started to fall after a federal judge decided the practice was likely unconstitutional in 2014. The case originated in Portland, Oregon, and a federal magistrate judge ruled that an undocumented immigrant’s rights had been violated after she was held in county jail for 19 hours past her original release date. The ruling left Clackamas County liable for damages, putting small town departments on the hook for lawsuits if immigrants decided to take legal action for being unlawfully detained." 

THE ARGUMENT THAT THE IMPACT OF SANCTUARY CITIES POSES NO DANGER
  •  A new study conducted by Tom K. Wong, a political scientist at the University of California-San Diego, found that there are broad benefits for local jurisdictions that resist cooperating with federal immigration enforcement — they are safer in the aggregate and enjoy stronger economies. "For the first time we're kind of seeing that crime rates are lower when localities stay out of the business of federal immigration enforcement," Wong said… On average, counties that did not comply with ICE requests experienced 35.5 fewer crimes per 10,000 people than those that did… Counties that did not comply with detainer requests had higher household incomes, lower rates of unemployment, lower rates of poverty, and were less likely to have children under 18 in households receiving public benefits… Research has shown that working with federal immigration enforcement made it harder for local police agencies to investigate crimes because witnesses and victims who were in the country illegally would be less likely to come forward if they thought they risked being detained and deported. It could be that sanctuary counties have immigrant populations who are more integrated into their social fabric and economies.” http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/01/29/512002076/why-sanctuary-cities-are-safer
  • "The US Census Bureau reported in 2010 that 13 percent of the country's population of 308,746,000 people, or about 40 million, were foreign born. However, when the American Immigration Council used 2010 Census data to analyze incarceration rates for males between 18 and 39 (since most crimes are committed by males in that age range), it found that 1.6 percent of foreign-born males are in jail, compared with 3.3 percent of the native born population. Similar trends go back to the 1980s. 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." https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/reports/2017/01/26/297366/the-effects-of-sanctuary-policies-on-crime-and-the-economy/
  • “Mexican immigrants—including those who entered the U.S. legally and illegally—had an incarceration rate in 2000 of 0.7 percent, one-eighth the rate of native-born Americans of Mexican descent and lower than that of American-born whites and blacks of similar socioeconomic status and education. And repeated studies have found that areas with high concentrations of workers without documentation—such as El Paso—are among the safest cities in the country. The 2010 census data reveal that young, poorly educated men in the U.S. from Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala—the bulk of the population of immigrants who live in the country illegally—have incarceration rates significantly lower than those of native-born young men without a high school diploma.” http://www.newsweek.com/2015/10/23/myths-half-truths-about-immigration-reform-382855.html 
“An outside analysis of 2015 FBI-collected crime statistics supports the idea that communities offering sanctuary to unauthorized residents have less total crime. Then again, that analysis didn't independently confirm the sanctuary status of each county nor did it fine-tune the crime statistics as much as criminologists would prefer before reaching cause-effect conclusions.” 
A study from collingwoodresearch.com concluded the following:
"We find no statistically discernible difference in violent crime rate, rape, or property crime across the cities. Our findings provide evidence that sanctuary policies have no effect on crime rates, despite narratives to the contrary. The potential ben- efits of sanctuary cities, such as better incorporation of the undocumented community and cooperation with police, thus have little cost for the cities in question in terms of crime."
Similar conclusions have been found in study after study.  Government.com reached a similar conclusion after conducting their own study and surveying the work of others. Even the conservative site The Federalist published a pro-immigration labor article. 

THE ARGUMENT THAT SANCTUARY CITIES SUPPORT A VIBRANT ECONOMY
  •  “A 2017 report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy highlights that undocumented immigrants pay an estimated $11.74 billion in state and local taxes a year. The U.S. Social Security Administration estimated that in 2010 undocumented immigrants—and their employers—paid $13 billion in payroll taxes alone for benefits they will never get. They can receive schooling and emergency medical care but not welfare or food stamps. Under the 1996 welfare law, most government programs require proof of documentation, and even immigrants with documents cannot receive these benefits until they have been in the United States for more than five years.” http://www.tolerance.org/immigration-myths
  • “The Social Security system has grown increasingly reliant on this stream of revenue, particularly as aging Baby Boomers start to retire. Stephen Goss, the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, estimates that about 1.8 million immigrants were working with fake or stolen Social Security cards in 2010, and he expects that number to reach 3.4 million by 2040. He calculates that undocumented immigrants paid $13 billion into the retirement trust fund that year, and only got about $1 billion in benefits. 'We estimate that earnings by unauthorized immigrants result in a net positive effect on Social Security financial status generally, and that this effect contributed roughly $12 billion to the cash flow of the program for 2010,' Gross concluded in a 2013 review of the impact of undocumented immigrants on Social Security.” https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/09/undocumented-immigrants-and-taxes/499604/
  • “A 2006 report by the state comptroller estimated they [undocumented workers] added $17.7 billion to gross state product, including contributing $424 million more to state revenue than they consumed in government services, such as education, health care and law enforcement.”  The financial impact in Texas is similar. In other words, immigration brings a net financial gain. http://www.newsweek.com/2015/10/23/myths-half-truths-about-immigration-reform-382855.html
  • "Collectively, undocumented immigrants will pay an estimated total of $11.84 billion in state and local taxes in 2012... This includes $1.1 billion in personal income taxes and $3.6 billion in property taxes (paid directly as homeowners and indirectly as renters). Sales and excise taxes account for almost 60 percent of their state and local tax contributions, bringing in more than $7 billion... Undocumented immigrants’ nationwide average effective tax rate in 2012 is an estimated 8 percent. To put this in perspective, the top 1 percent of taxpayers pay an average nationwide effective tax rate of just 5.4 percent." - Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy
The United States Chamber Of Commerce has a lot to say about what it believes is the benefit of immigrants legal and illegal, as does the Foundation For Economic Education.  If you have a high school diploma, you benefit at least a little bit from illegal immigrant workers. 

THE ARGUMENT THAT SANCTUARY CITIES POSE A DANGER
  • "Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies analyzed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) records and found that during just one eight-month period in 2014, sanctuary jurisdictions released more than 8,100 deportable aliens. Of those, 62 percent had a prior criminal record; 3,000 were convicted felons. Of those released, 1,900 were later rearrested a total of 4,300 times on 7,500 different offenses. As Vaughan says, “when local jurisdictions shield aliens wanted by the feds, the aliens can commit more crimes.”  http://nationalinterest.org/feature/americas-sanctuary-city-nightmare-13667
  • “In a nine-month timeframe in 2014, sanctuary cities shielded 9,265 illegals from deportation, 62 percent of which "had significant prior criminal histories" and 2,320 of them were subsequently rearrested for new crimes.”  http://nationalinterest.org/feature/americas-sanctuary-city-nightmare-13667
  • According to Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, crime has risen in "sanctuary cities" across the nation. Landry told the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, that sanctuary city policies "allow illegals to commit crimes, then roam free in our communities." Landry’s appearance was prompted by the changed status of New Orleans, where city police are now banned from asking an individual's immigration status. Using recent statistics from Los Angeles, another sanctuary city, Landry asserted, “Los Angeles saw all crime rise in 2015: violent crime up 19.9 percent, homicides up 10.2 percent, shooting victims up 12.6 percent, rapes up 8.6 percent, robberies up 12.3 percent, and aggravated assault up 27.5 percent … (sanctuary cities) encourage further illegal immigration and promote an underground economy that sabotages the tax base." http://www.dailywire.com/news/10816/5-things-you-need-know-about-sanctuary-cities-aaron-bandler
ICE released a study covering January 2014 to August 2014. In that time frame, "8,145 individuals were released from jail after arrest due to their respective jurisdictions declining an immigration detainer request from ICE. Of the 8,145 individuals released, 1,867 were subsequently re-arrested a total of 4,298 times and accumulated a staggering 7,491 charges."

One could add the observation that it's possible we are creating a climate in which not abiding by the law is seen as acceptable. Could it be that sanctuary cities undermine the rule of law in a much bigger sense than simply the issue of immigration? 

THE ARGUMENT THAT SANCTUARY CITIES BRING ABOUT A FINANCIAL LOSS

From the Heritage Foundation:
Children in unlawful immigrant households receive heavily subsidized public education. Many unlawful immigrants have U.S.-born children; these children are currently eligible for the full range of government welfare and medical benefits. And, of course, when unlawful immigrants live in a community, they use roads, parks, sewers, police, and fire protection; these services must expand to cover the added population or there will be “congestion” effects that lead to a decline in service quality. In 2010, the average unlawful immigrant household received around $24,721 in government benefits and services while paying some $10,334 in taxes. This generated an average annual fiscal deficit (benefits received minus taxes paid) of around $14,387 per household. This cost had to be borne by U.S. taxpayers...
A final problem is that unlawful immigration appears to depress the wages of low-skill U.S.-born and lawful immigrant workers by 10 percent, or $2,300, per year. Unlawful immigration also probably drives many of our most vulnerable U.S.-born workers out of the labor force entirely. Unlawful immigration thus makes it harder for the least advantaged U.S. citizens to share in the American dream. This is wrong; public policy should support the interests of those who have a right to be here, not those who have broken our laws." 
A report in Texas addressed the claim that Texas benefits economically, then pointed out a potentially glaring hole in the claim. 
A 2006 report by then comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn found that undocumented immigrants paid $424.7 million more to the state in taxes and fees than the state spent on them in education (by far the biggest expense), health care, and incarceration. That’s a net gain for Texas. But on the local level, the report found a very different story: Local governments and hospitals were nearly $1 billion in the hole. Strayhorn’s report has some serious critics, though. Perhaps the comptroller’s most problematic decision was to exclude the expense of educating the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, on the grounds that these children are American citizens. That’s a dodge, and a pretty significant one. According to a 2009 report by the Pew Hispanic Center, there are nearly three times as many U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants as undocumented children. If we include all of them in the calculations, the state budgetary impact of undocumented immigration could go from less than half a billion in the black to well north of a billion in the red.
Politico noted that illegal immigration has winners and losers. The winners are the immigrant laborers and basically everyone who is not competing for the kind of low wage job most illegal immigrants have. The losers are the Americans competing for those jobs. While the financial impact in general evens out for the nation, a native working class that is already struggling will struggle even more. The Center For Immigration notes:
Between 2000 and 2005, the number of jobless natives (age 18 to 64) with no education beyond a high school degree increased by over two million, to 23 million, according to the Current Population Survey. During the same period, the number of less-educated immigrants (legal and illegal) holding a job grew 1.5 million.

* * * * * * * * * * *

So how can these two positions reach such widely different conclusions? 

1. There is uncertainty about how to distinguish between correlation and causation.
2. It makes a difference if one looks nationally vs. looks at specific localities. 
Some sanctuary cities have higher crime rates among non-citizens; most don’t. Overall, the trend is that crime is less, but in particular areas that does not always hold true. It is not clear why that is. I couldn’t find data, but I wonder if the numbers change because of gang activity or because cities use different standards for defining and reporting crime.

3. Personal accounts of tragedy are an important reminder of what's at stake.
I've read numerous accounts of terrible crimes committed by illegal immigrants. As a friend of mine has said, "If you were a public official who voted for sanctuary city status, and a mom comes to you and asks why you voted for a policy that let in a person who raped and killed her daughter, what would you say? The blood is on your hands." That's a powerful emotional argument. We don't want to throw entire ethnic or religious groups under the bus for the horrific crimes of a few, but if we could have stopped even one tragedy, should we have?

This raises an important question: What is the line for a cost/benefit analysis? Is it one murderer per 100? 1,000?10,000? In 2015, out of 19,240 arrested non-citizens in federal prison, 101 total were convicted of either assault, sexual assault, or murder. That's far less than 1%. What is the balance between showing compassion for the many immigrants, legal and illegal, who are fleeing hopeless situations full of legitimate hardship, and fulfilling a mandate to keep America's citizens safe? Focusing a spotlight on individual situations can distort the big picture, but the spotlight is still revealing a harsh reality that matters.

4. A blanket discussion of "crime" can paint a picture that is not entirely accurate. Simply saying, "Illegal immigrants commit so many crimes!" creates a fear that is not in alignment with physical threats. This might seem like I am burying you under qualifications, but...they matter.
5. The number of undocumented or illegal immigrants changes the percentages - and thus the pragmatic argument - drastically. In other words, if the immigrant population is actually larger than the official stats (which many people claim), the negative percentages drop significantly. The Cato institute summarizes it well:
"Our headline finding is that both illegal immigrants and legal immigrants have incarceration rates far below those of native-born Americans—at 0.85 percent, 0.47 percent, and 1.53 percent, respectively. Excluding illegal immigrants who are incarcerated or in detention for immigration offenses lowers their incarceration rate to 0.5 percent of their population—within a smidge of legal immigrants. As a result, native-born Americans are overrepresented in the incarcerated population while illegal and legal immigrants are underrepresented, relative to their respective shares of the population. 
The relatively low number of incarcerated illegal immigrants places some immigration restrictionists in an uncomfortable position: choosing which myth to believe. The first myth is that illegal immigrants are especially crime-prone. The second myth is that there are actually two to three times as many illegal immigrants as is commonly reported. The usual number used by the government and most demographers is that there are 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States but a steady drumbeat of skeptics claim the real number is about 22 to 36 million.  
No matter how you dice the numbers, a larger illegal immigrant population in the United States means that their incarceration rate is even lower that what we report. Without adjusting for age, a total illegal immigrant population of 22 million would lower their incarceration rate to 0.56 percent using Cato’s estimate of the size of the incarcerated illegal immigrant population. Using the higher (and sillier) 36 million illegal immigrant population estimate by Ann Coulter lowers their incarceration rate to 0.34 percent."
In other words, if the illegal immigrant population is two to three times higher than the 11 million officially estimated, that's an argument in their favor, not against them.

6. The economic arguments depend a lot upon what all you consider.  The debate is not easily resolved for several reasons.
  • It is difficult to nail down the number of people involved and the services they receive.
  • It involves a lot of speculation about the burden illegal immigrants place on public infrastructure.
  • A lot depends on if you believe the services given to natural born children of illegal immigrants ought to be counted as a negative because of their parents' status or seen as an expected part of raising the next generation of American kids.
  • It's difficult to quantify just how much the labor force and the economy is impacted. Do they steal jobs, or do they do the jobs no one else will do? Do they rob people of entry level jobs, or are they enabling citizens take higher paying jobs instead of lower paying ones? 
The Heritage Foundation study I quoted earlier gave the most thorough critique I saw, but Business Insider pointed out some serious flaws in their methodology. Overall, there seems to be a net gain financially in terms of tax collection and vibrant economies vs. benefits paid.  The University of Pennsylvania has a good overview here. 

7. Police departments are sharply divided on this issue of safety (see articles here, here, here, and here). On the one hand, sanctuary cities have seen much better cooperation between police and illegal immigrants, which means safer towns, so much so that many local police precincts in Texas oppose measures that force them to cooperate with federal immigration law enforcement. On the other hand, some sanctuary cities have policies that handcuff the police rather than criminals (I saw the issue of thwarting gang violence come up several times). It seems that a sanctuary city policy properly written is beneficial, but a poorly written one is detrimental.

The University of Chicago Press published a study called, “Policing Immigrants: Local Law Enforcement on the Front Lines.” They interviewed more than 750 police chiefs and sheriffs. Their conclusion: "In red states and blue states alike, a majority... expressed serious concerns about involving their officers in immigration enforcement and said that immigration enforcement should remain a federal responsibility."

8. ICE is currently targeting sanctuary cities. Expect to see headlines about all the arrests in sanctuary vs. non-sanctuary cities, but it will be a disproportionate comparison to the overall population.

9.  I can't find studies comparing crime rates before a city became a sanctuary city and after it did. All I can find is current stats. Those sanctuary cities currently compare favorably (with a couple exceptions), I think we need to know the before/after stats as well.

10. Studies and surveys have reached wildly different conclusions on issues like the number of incarcerated non-citizens. It would seem like this should be an easy number to establish, but it's not. After discussing at length the various contradictory studies (do non-citizens make up 5% or 20% of state prisons?), the Center For Immigration Studies reached what may feel like an unsatisfying conclusion:
"We find that it would be a mistake to assume that immigrants as a group are more prone to crime than other groups, or that they should be viewed with more suspicion than others. Even though immigrant incarceration rates are high in some populations, there is no clear evidence that immigrants commit crimes at higher or lower rates than others. Nevertheless, it also would be a mistake to conclude that immigrant crime is insignificant or that offenders’ immigration status is irrelevant in local policing. The newer information available as a result of better screening of the incarcerated population suggests that, in many parts of the country, immigrants are responsible for a significant share of crime. This indicates that there are legitimate public safety reasons for local law enforcement agencies to determine the immigration status of offenders and to work with federal immigration authorities."
A study posted by police foundation.org. called "Undocumented Immigration and Rates of Crime and Imprisonment: Popular Myths and Empirical Realities" reached a more definitive conclusion.
"Given the cumulative weight of this evidence, the rise in immigration is arguably one of the reasons that crime rates have decreased in the United States over the past decade and a half—and even more so in cities of immigrant concentration. A further implication of this evidence is that if immigrants suddenly disappeared and the U.S. became immigrant-free (and illegal-immigrant free), crime rates would likely increase. The problem of crime and incarceration in the United States is not “caused” or even aggravated by immigrants, regardless of their legal status. But the uncritical and evidence-optional assumption that the opposite is true persists among policymakers, the media, and the general public, thereby impoverishing a genuine understanding of complex phenomena—a situation that undermines the development of evidence-based, reasoned public responses to both crime and immigration."
*****
After doing this research, the picture remains murky to me. Trying to discern why statistics are so contradictory was not easy, and I'm not entirely convinced that my following conclusions are the right ones. It's the best I've got right now with the information I have.

I think we would all agree that the best case scenario is that everyone enters and stays in the country legally.However, let's assume that illegal immigration is going to happen to some degree no matter what kind of physical or legal boundaries we put in place. How do we balance justice and mercy?  What's the best case scenario on how to protect the populace while trying to accommodate those who are truly in desperate need and see no other way to escape their circumstances?

1. I believe we must support ICE's monitoring of our nation's safety. If they were not as capable as they are, the impact of violent crime in local cities would be very different. It's worth discussing at what point their power exceeds reasonable limits - recent stories have highlighted some very confusing arrests - but they exist for the safety of everyone in the United States, native-born or immigrant. So, ICE should continue to protect the border and prioritize known threats from illegal immigrants who live in the heartland. The policies under which they work are at times troublesome, but they arrest and deport a lot of people who pose a threat to our safety. 

2. I am inclined to believe that sanctuary cities per se do not pose a threat to safety - if the policies are carefully written. They can actually make the community safer because of the freedom of illegal immigrants to work with the police in preventing and solving violent crime. Many illegal immigrants who live in sanctuary cities are there because they left desperate situations and believed the road to life in America contained insurmountable obstacles . Allowing them to live peacefully while figuring out a way to legally assimilate them seems like a good idea to me.

3. Local police departments should develop a close working relationship with illegal immigrants so that the police are trusted and not feared (for example, illegal immigrants testifying in court cases won't be afraid to show up). However, sanctuary city policies should be written so that state and city police can aggressively pursue and prosecute known threats. I think the previously noted exemption in Chicago's policy is a good one. In addition, policies in which the local police cooperate with ICE after an arrest don't seem to have a detrimental effect on the police/immigrant relationship and contribute to our safety.

4. Both states and the federal government should work on two things: establishing when legitimate exceptions can be made to blanket policies against undocumented immigrants, and making access to citizenship less complicated and more affordable. It would be nice if the 98% of illegals who want to be here legally could do so.

As best I can tell, this kind of focus would bring about the best scenario in a complex situation that does not offer a perfect solution.

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