On June 15, the Supreme Court declined to take up a case challenging a California sanctuary law limiting cooperation between local police officers and federal immigration officials.
For sanctuary law advocates and immigrants alike, this is a win; recent research indicates sanctuary laws make communities and members safer.
One significant example of the protection that sanctuary laws create is a reduction in domestic violence. This is especially true in Hispanic communities.
One in three Hispanic women are victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives. Yet, according to the National Latin Network, less than 50 percent of these women report the incidents to law enforcement, out of fear police might question them about their immigration status, or ask them about the immigration status of relatives or friends.
No one wants cases of domestic violence to go unreported. Encouraging more victims to come forward and leave their abusers is challenging. It’s complicated by immigration status.
A promising solution is changing how police interact with immigrant communities. Our new research paper examines how inclusive policing can reduce domestic violence.
It shows how police departments that limit their cooperation with federal immigration officials can gain community trust and cooperation, ensuring a public safety system that save lives.
Multiple cities and counties across the country have adopted sanctuary policies. These policies define how local law enforcement work with immigrant communities.
It does not mean that local police never cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but rather, lets them make individual assessments, determining when such cooperation would do more harm than good to the parties involved.
This allows police officers to prioritize public safety threats over enforcing federal immigration laws. Many cities have already adopted these policies, successfully encouraging community cooperation in solving crimes and promoting public safety.
Measuring the effect of sanctuary policies on domestic violence is challenging because incidents so often go unreported. That is why we focus on an extreme type of domestic violence that very rarely goes unreported — domestic homicides.
This enables us to gauge the effect of sanctuary policies on the incidence of domestic violence by comparing domestic homicides pre- and post-policy adoption.
In the 1,134 counties examined, we find sanctuary policies lower domestic homicide rates among Hispanic women between 52 percent and 62 percent, suggesting women are more likely to come forward when sanctuary is provided, preventing the situation from resulting in a homicide.
Three women, on average, are murdered by their partners every day. With a change in immigration law enforcement policies, many of those murders could be prevented, demonstrating the critical role such policies play in increasing community trust in police.
These are life-saving opportunities in policymaking everyone can unite behind. Sanctuary policies still encourage police officers to pursue violent criminals and cities with well-designed policies do precisely that.
Still, at the same time, they encourage trusting relationships between police and immigrants, improving public safety for all within the community, especially for domestic abuse victims, often the most vulnerable among them.