Thursday, September 4, 2014
Immigration Article of the Day: Does Immigration Enforcement Reduce Crime? Evidence from “Secure Communities” by Adam Cox and Thomas J. Miles
Does Immigration Enforcement Reduce Crime? Evidence from “Secure Communities” by Adam Cox (NYU) and Thomas J. Miles (University of Chicago). Forthcoming The Journal of Law and Economics, November 2014
"Secure Communities" is the largest cooperative immigration enforcement program in American history. It has a simple goal: enabling the federal government to check the immigration status of every single person arrested for a crime by local police. Adam Cox and Thomas J. Miles are working on a large-scale empirical study of the program: its goals, its consequences for crime rates, and its intended and unintended effects on local policing. The first two papers from their study are npw available. The first paper is Policing Immigration 80 University of Chicago Law Review 87 (2013).
The second paper is Does Immigration Enforcement Reduce Crime? Evidence from “Secure Communities” Forthcoming The Journal of Law and Economics, November 2014. Abstract: Does immigration enforcement actually reduce crime? Surprisingly, little evidence exists either way—despite the fact that deporting noncitizens who commit crimes has been a central feature of American immigration law since the early twentieth century. We capitalize on a natural policy experiment to address the question and, in the process, provide the first empirical analysis of the most important deportation initiative to be rolled out in decades. The policy initiative we study is “Secure Communities,” a program designed to enable the federal government to check the immigration status of every person arrested for a crime by local police. Before this program, the government checked the immigration status of only a small fraction of arrestees. Since its launch, the program has led to over a quarter of a million detentions. We exploit the slow rollout of the program across more than 3,000 US counties to isolate the effect of Secure Communities on local crime rates. Moreover, we refine those estimates using rich data on the number of immigrants detained under the program in each county and month—data obtained from the federal government through extensive FOIA requests. Our results show that Secure Communities led to no meaningful reductions in the FBI index crime rate. Nor has it reduced rates of violent crime—homicides, rape, robbery, or aggravated assault. This evidence shows that the program has not served its central objective of making communities safer.
Kirk Semple of the New York Times authored an article highlighting the studies results.