Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s claim that ‘criminals take notice’ of cities with sanctuary policies

President Trump has threatened to go after sanctuary cities, which provide protections for illegal immigrants. This is how state and local governments with sanctuary policies have responded to possible action. (Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)

“When cities like Philadelphia, Boston, or San Francisco advertise that they have these policies, the criminals take notice. According to a recent study from the University of California Riverside, cities with these policies have more violent crime on average than those that don’t.”
— Attorney General Jeff Sessions, speech on sanctuary cities in Las Vegas, July 12, 2017 

In a speech about “sanctuary cities,” Sessions cited research from University of California at Riverside that does not actually support his point. There is little research looking at the impact of sanctuary policies on crime. It’s a difficult correlation to study; many factors affect crime, and state and local law enforcement do not always track inmate citizenship status.

We previously dug into the existing research on sanctuary cities and crime, including the one he mentioned, and did not find that criminals “take notice” when cities have sanctuary policies. Sanctuary jurisdictions release inmates after their criminal case is complete, and extensive research shows noncitizens are not more prone to criminality than U.S.-born citizens. Moreover, some sanctuary jurisdictions do cooperate with the federal government if they believe the inmate is a public safety threat.

What is Sessions talking about?

The Facts

There’s no official definition of “sanctuary,” but it generally refers to rules restricting state and local governments from alerting federal authorities about people who may be in the country illegally. Immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility, and state and local law enforcement can decide how much they want to cooperate with the federal government for immigration enforcement.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can issue an “immigration detainer,” or a request to be notified when a noncitizen convicted of a crime is being released at state or local levels. ICE can then take custody of the offenders and figure out if they should be deported.

But some agencies decide not to alert ICE. Some fear that victims and potential witnesses may not come forward to report crimes if they are afraid of being reported to federal authorities for their immigration status. Others cite dwindling local and…

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