Sanctuary cities” have been making the news recently. On June 15, the Supreme Court announced that it wouldn’t hear a particular case by the Trump administration. The case challenged a California sanctuary law that limits cooperation between local and state law enforcement with federal immigration authorities, letting stand a lower-court ruling in favor of the state. In contrast, Tarrant County, Texas, where I call home, recently renewed its participation in a federal program that lets sheriff deputies act as ICE agents, making it the opposite of a sanctuary for immigrants.

What Are Sanctuary Policies?

“Sanctuary” policies are often described as “all-out toleration of lawlessness” by those that oppose them. In reality, they are simply policies adopted by local and state governments that limit the ability of local law enforcement to collaborate with federal immigration officials in their efforts to find and deport undocumented immigrants. Such policies can include:

  1. prohibiting police from questioning people about their immigration status,
  2. restricting the ability of police to make arrests for federal immigration violations,
  3. refusing to hold individuals suspected of being undocumented beyond their release date so they can be moved into federal detention, and
  4. refusing to allow ICE agents to enter local jails without a warrant. 

Opponents of sanctuary cities contend that they promote crime by allowing “dangerous individuals” to return to the streets. On the contrary, supporters of such policies argue that they reduce crime by enabling immigrants to communicate with law enforcement without fear of deportation.

How Do Sanctuary Policies Help Victims of Domestic Violence?

Recently, evidence has come out showing that sanctuary policies are life-saving for one group in particular: victims of domestic violence. One study (release this May) finds that sanctuary policies lower rates of domestic homicide among Hispanic women by 52 and 62 percent. The researchers, professors Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes and Monica Deza, attribute this to an increased willingness by victims of domestic violence to reach out to local law enforcement for help without fear that this could lead to deportation.

Opponents of sanctuary policies love to hold up instances where undocumented immigrants commit crimes, ensuring that the names of “victims of sanctuary cities” are widely publicized. However, statistics show that undocumented immigrants have lower crime rates than native-born citizens. As well, the number of lives saved by sanctuary policies don’t end up in the newspaper.

This is one of the reasons why I support sanctuary policies and oppose efforts by local law enforcement to collaborate with federal immigration authorities: As a feminist, I believe survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence should be able to feel safe seeking help from police regardless of their immigration status.

Read also:
Domestic Violence: The Shadow Pandemic
Domestic Violence and Marginalization Exacerbate Our Homelessness Crisis
Violence Against Native Women In The United States