Sanctuaries Don’t Bring Crime; They Build Immigrants’ Trust With Police

Image courtesy of Kate Gardiner (CC License)

After a federal appeals court blocked President Trump’s attempts to defund sanctuary cities, immigrants and advocates are gaining some ground protecting our vulnerable neighbors, friends, and family. With New York City taking steps to provide safe refuge for immigrants, will Long Island step up to the plate, as well?

In our region–where Nassau and Suffolk police work hand-in-hand with federal immigration enforcement–the full-frontal, dragnet approach of combating gangs has all but decimated the community’s trust in law enforcement. If undocumented individuals fear that their own police will turn them in to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), they won’t contact them, not even to report when they are the victims of crimes.

Tom Wong, associate professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego, echoes this conclusion in recent op-ed published in the Washington Post, with the data to back it up.

“The research that exists, including my own, suggests either that counties with sanctuary policies have less crime than comparable non-sanctuary counties, or that there is no statistically significant relationship between city sanctuary policies and increased crime rates,” he wrote.

Surveying undocumented Mexican immigrants in September and November 2017, “…60.8 percent said they are less likely to report a crime they witnessed, and 42.9 percent said they are less likely to report being a victim of a crime.” Further, survey responders also reported being less likely to use public services, engage in business requiring personal information, and even participate in public events with police present.

In Nassau County, the director of the district attorney’s Office of Immigrant Affairs recently told the Long Island Herald that in spite of assurances that witnesses and victims won’t be questioned about immigration status, immigrants are wary of reaching out. Compared with more than 70 calls in 2016, director Silvia Finkelstein said her office received just three calls in 2017.

“We did have more people coming in-person than last year, but it was through church and community groups,” Finkelstein said. “This means that people would rather reach out to their priests or community leaders than to police when they experience crime. There is a great reluctance to communicate with us.”

The facts and the data are clear: local law enforcement working with ICE serves the agenda of mass deportation, rather than public safety. The solution to Long Island’s gang problem and public safety, more broadly, will be found in a strong partnership with the immigrant community, who also wants to crack down on MS-13, especially since the primary victims of MS-13’s violence are other immigrants.