Russell Hebets Feb. 21, 2017

While the arguments to keep cities safe and to reduce expenses sound compelling, they are not backed by numbers. In fact, there is substantial evidence that sanctuary cities are not in more danger than other cities and that helping undocumented people is not a huge cost but in fact benefits the city.

Immigrants and Crime

One of the main concerns related to immigration is crime. However, crime statistics and surveys from multiple sources indicate that there is no increase in crime with an increase of immigration. FBI data shows that sanctuary cities are safer than other cities. Specifically, the overall crime rate is 15% lower including homicides. The only exception is medium metro area suburbs which slow a very slight uptick in crime if they are sanctuary cities.

Not only does data over time and in various places indicate that immigrants do not increase the crime rate, but they may in fact help to lower it. In large, urban areas with significant immigrant populations the crime rates are much lower, indicating that immigration actually revitalizes urban areas and increases economic growth. In other words, the only correlation between immigrants and crime is an inverse one: Your city is safer with more immigrants in it.

Immigrants tend to come to a new place not to cause trouble but to get away from trouble. They typically have a desire to work and increase security for their families. Furthermore, serious crimes will get them deported and they know this, even when they are undocumented. So in general, this is a population that does not want to get involved with law enforcement.

Last but not least, sanctuary cities help reduce crime because it is safer for undocumented immigrants to report crimes without fear of repercussions; this in turn helps law enforcement to do its job.

What are the economic costs and benefits?

The economic benefits of immigration are substantial. As a whole, immigrants tend to be of working age and seeking employment. While there are short term costs, they are nominal and quickly overcome, immigrants give back more economically than they take.

Immigrants comprise about 13% of the overall population. According to the Economic Policy Institute, between 2009 and 2011 the economic output of immigrants was 14.7%. Despite being 13% of the population they are 16% of the workforce and many of these positions are white collar jobs, not just low wage ones. Additionally, there are slightly more immigrant small business owners than native small business owners, meaning they also help create jobs. Immigrants are also homeowners.

Interestingly, these numbers are fairly consistent for unauthorized immigrants too. They often pay more taxes and do not get refunds for fear of filing; furthermore they are ineligible to use public welfare services so they take very little while giving back quite a bit. The Social Security Administration states that over the last decade, unauthorized immigrants have contributed $100 billion to the Social Security fund.

Lastly, the costs of extended detention and deportation are significantly greater than the short term expenses incurred supporting immigrants. The wall itself is estimated to cost $20 billion; deporting immigrants and all it entails would cost an estimated $300 -600 billion; and the reduction to our economy could be as much as $1.6 trillion over the next 20 years. Plus, law enforcement does not need the burden of dealing with large numbers of people whose only crime is bad paperwork. Mass deportation would be economically devastating and would make us no safer.

There is a lot of concern related to immigration right now, but what we know from data, both historical and current, is that there is nothing to fear. On the contrary, providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants will actually increase economic growth and job creation. It will also save on law enforcement costs and cities are just as safe, if not safer. We can take pride in our city choosing to protect people who contribute so much to the things that make Denver great.