Frontera Fund News

Sanctuary Cities Are Cities of Economic Development

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Los Angeles, California.
Written by Carmen Cornejo

Mayors of some of the most prosperous cities in the U.S. that have community policies called “sanctuary” were quick to reject President Trump’s executive orders and are ready to fight back.

On Wednesday, January 25, 2017, President Trump signed his first immigration-related executive orders. The first dealt with the construction of the border wall, boosting border patrol forces and increasing the number of enforcement officers who carry out deportations. The second called for stripping the so-called “sanctuary cities” of federal funding, adding new criteria that could make many more undocumented immigrants priorities for deportation.

The response of the community was swift. Immigrant groups and several city mayors joined voices to reject this extension of federal power, addressing a problem that does not exist. Cities with policies that do not violate the rights of immigrants are cities who favor economic development for all.

The organization Immigrant Legal Resource Center estimates there are 39 cities – big and small – and 364 counties that can be considered “sanctuary.” Some of the most well-known cities are Chicago, Los Angeles, Austin, New York and San Francisco.

Yes, all of them are cool cities.

Phoenix is a special case. After a decade of suffering anti-immigrant legislations, including the mostly unconstitutional SB1070, the city has been embracing benign policies regarding immigrants and speaking against hardline politicians who impose harsher laws on them, siding at the end with pro-immigrants and diversity policies.

Some are under the impression that “sanctuary cities” illegally protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. In reality, law enforcement agencies follow procedures and signal ICE when an undocumented immigrant commits a deportable offense. What “sanctuary cities” do is to refuse to criminalize people who have not committed violent crimes or are crime victims. Additionally, their law enforcement agencies refuse to act as immigration enforcement agents by asking their residents for their immigration status. 

There is ample research demonstrating those sanctuary policies are good for community policing and are great for the economy and innovation.

A study from the organization Center for American Progress points out:

  • There are, on average, 35.5 fewer crimes committed per 10,000 people in sanctuary counties compared to no-sanctuary counties.
  • Median household annual income is, on average, $4,353 higher in sanctuary counties compared to no-sanctuary counties.
  • The poverty rate is 2.3 percent lower, on average, in sanctuary counties compared to no-sanctuary counties.
  • Unemployment is, on average, 1.1 percent lower in sanctuary counties compared to no-sanctuary counties.

Key economic indicators show that “sanctuary cities” have higher income per capita, less reliance on public assistance, better wealth distribution (not only for Latinos but all) and more employment.

Statistics suggest that “sanctuary cities” are safer since all residents feel comfortable reporting crimes and suspicious activities to law enforcement officers.

The data compiled by the study also make clear that when cities treat all residents with dignity all residents see significant economic gains.