Sanctuary Cities and The Facts

Sean Rush

San Francisco first declared itself a sanctuary jurisdiction in 1989 when it declared a local ordinance that banned the use of city resources to aid ICE “in enforcing federal immigration laws ‘unless such assistance is required by federal or state law’ (Rizzo, 2018).” In 2013, San Francisco issued a follow up ordinance stopping local enforcement from following any ICE “detainee requests.” In 2017, Jerry Brown signed an executive order making the entire state of California a sanctuary jurisdiction. Along with California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington are also states issued as sanctuary cities. In Virginia, there are five sanctuary jurisdictions, including Fairfax County and Alexandria.

            According to a study done in 2019 by Tom K. Wong PhD et. Al, 44.6 percent trust “a great deal” or “a lot” that police officers and sheriffs would keep their families safe if local law enforcement keeps from working with ICE. They are 34.8 percent less likely to trust law enforcement if they are working with ice. “There are, on average, 35.5 fewer crimes committed per 10,000 people in sanctuary counties compared to nonsanctuary counties (Wong, 2017).” Economies are also higher in sanctuary cities than they are nonsanctuary cites. Sanctuary cities’ median household income is $4,353 higher than nonsanctuary cities. In addition, poverty is 2.3 percent lower and unemployment is 1.1 percent lower than nonsanctuary cities (Wong, 2017). Public assistance is also lower in sanctuary cities than it is nonsanctuary cities. Those who receive SNAP benefits are 2.6 percent lower than nonsanctuary cities.

            Here are the statistics regarding the public’s opinions on sanctuary jurisdictions. According to a February McClatchy-Marxist poll of US adults, cited in the Washington Post, 41 percent said there was no reason to have sanctuary cities, while 50 percent believed they are needed (Ye Hee Lee, 2017). When asked whether they support or oppose the federal government cutting funds toward sanctuary cities, 42 percent supported and 53 percent opposed (Ye Hee Lee, 2017). According to a Fox News poll cited in the same article, 41 percent supported and 53 percent opposed taking federal funds from sanctuary cities (Ye Hee Lee, 2017).

            According to the think tank, Third Way, democrats rate ICE unfavorably by 40 points, while independents rate them favorably by 16 points, and republicans by 62 (Kasai, 2020). According to Michelle Hackman in the Wall Street Journal, Presidential Candidate Joe Biden, though opposed in 2007, sided with sanctuary cities in stating that local officials should not turn immigrants over to federal officials (Hackman, 2020). President Donald Trump on the other side has led a large combat against the funding of sanctuary cities. He signed an executive order in 2017 that would block federal funds towards sanctuary cities; though, the courts blocked this (Hackman, 2020).  He has also argued for a merit based immigration system. This has caused an increase in the rejection of all work based visas. “About 6.1% of applicants for the H-1B visa for high-skilled immigrants were rejected in 2016, for example, compared with 15.1% in 2019 (Hackman, 2020).”


Hackman, Michelle. “Where Trump and Biden Stand on Immigration, Border Wall and ICE.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, September 17, 2020.

Kasaid, Nathan. “How to Navigate the Sanctuary Cities Debate – Third Way.” Third Way, April 20, 2020.

Martínez, DE, Martínez‐Schuldt, RD, Cantor, G. Providing Sanctuary or Fostering Crime? A Review of the Research on “Sanctuary Cities” and Crime. Sociology Compass. 2018;

Salvador Rizzo. (2018). Fact-checking Trump’s weekly address on immigrants, crime and sanctuary cities: Trump devoted his weekly address to sanctuary cities and crime — and we found a lot to fact-check. In Washington Post – Blogs. WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post.

Wong, Tom K. “The Effects of Sanctuary Policies on Crime and the Economy,” January 26, 2017.

Wong, T., Kang, S., Valdivia, C., Espino, J., Gonzalez, M., & Peralta, E. (2020). How Interior Immigration Enforcement Affects Trust in Law Enforcement. Perspectives on Politics, 1-14. doi:10.1017/S1537592719003943

Ye Hee Lee, Michelle. “Analysis | Do 80 Percent of Americans Oppose Sanctuary Cities?” The Washington Post. WP Company, August 15, 2018.

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