Monday, June 1, 2020
Immigration Article of the Day: Can sanctuary policies reduce domestic violence? by Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes and Monica Deza.
Sanctuary cities limit the involvement of their law enforcement officials in federal immigration policy enforcement. In practice, this means that local police officers are restricted from making arrests solely for federal immigration violations, and required to refuse entry of federal immigration officials into jails without a warrant, among other related practices. These policies are meant to encourage cooperation between immigrant communities and law enforcement in order to improve public safety.
In this paper, economists Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes and Monica Deza examine the effects of sanctuary policies on domestic violence. This research is important because reports of domestic violence may change when sanctuary policies are in effect. For example, domestic violence reports may increase after sanctuary policies are enacted because individuals no longer fear deportation for themselves or another in the household. Increased reports of domestic violence do not necessarily mean that more domestic violence is occurring. Instead, it may mean that people simply feel safer coming forward to report acts of violence because they don’t fear being deported.
To avoid these confounding effects, the authors concentrate on extreme events of domestic violence, domestic homicides. Homicides rarely go unreported, whether or not the city provides sanctuary, so the authors can isolate the effect of sanctuary policies on domestic homicides.
The authors find that the adoption of sanctuary policies is accompanied by a lower rate of domestic homicides involving a female Hispanic victim. Sanctuary policies contribute to a reduced domestic homicide rate among Hispanic women by between 52 and 62 percent. This effect is unique to Hispanic women. They do not find any change in the rate of domestic homicides against men, for example.
The authors suggest three possible explanations for the reduced level of domestic homicides. First, sanctuary policies may promote early reporting of incidents before they escalate to homicides. Sanctuary may also reduce the likelihood that would-be abusers ever commit violence because the abuser knows that victims may call the police. And finally, the authors examine evidence that sanctuary policies improve women’s economic independence. This may make it easier for them to leave abusers.
Overall, these findings show how increasing cooperation between local law enforcement and immigrant communities can help improve public safety by lowering rates of domestic violence. States and cities should view these results as an opportunity to create policy benefitting vulnerable populations.