Sanctuary City: A Closer Look at the Effects of Executive Order No. 13768 to the Public Safety of the City of Los Angeles

*This blog post is part two of a four-part blog series dedicated to the topic of sanctuary cities.


City of Los Angeles City Hall

City of Los Angeles City Hall, Los Angeles, California

In part one of this blog series, discussion centered on the meaning, history, and significance of sanctuary cities in the United States. The account is in consideration of the Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States (Executive Order No. 13768) signed by President Donald J. Trump in January 2017, which targets sanctuary cities. Yet, what does this executive order mean for the City of Los Angeles? What would be the public safety consequences in Los Angeles if the executive order is implemented?

With a population of more than four million people, Los Angeles is the second most populous city in the nation after New York City. There are people from approximately 140 countries that call this metropolis their home and at least 185 languages are spoken. Furthermore, according to a study from the Pew Research Center, it is estimated that there are 375,000 undocumented immigrants residing in the City of Los Angeles—this number increases to one million for the Los Angeles metro area. Thus, it is one of the most diverse cities in the United States.

In 1979, aware of the changing demographics that were taking place in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) adopted Special Order 40. The Special Order prohibits police officers from initiating contact with a person with the purpose of determining his or her immigration status. Special Order 40 was adopted to encourage undocumented immigrants to report crimes to the police without the fear of deportation—this as a mechanism to ensure the public safety of all Angelenos regardless of one’s legal status in the country. However, the Special Order does not protect undocumented immigrants who have been arrested for multiple misdemeanor offenses, a high-grade misdemeanor or a felony offense, or have been arrested for the same offense a second time.

Eric Garcetti

Mayor Eric Garcetti showing solidarity with walk-ins at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), Los Angeles, California

Following the November 2016 presidential elections, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck expressed their continued commitment to uphold Special Order 40 and have Los Angeles be a safe place for everyone. In fact, in March 2017, Garcetti signed Executive Directive 20. The executive directive includes language in which it orders the City’s Fire Department, Airport Police, and Port Police to adopt policies and procedures that are consistent with LAPD’s existing immigration enforcement policies and procedures—this includes Special Order 40.

However, the executive order is an obstacle in ensuring the public safety of places like Los Angeles. This policy includes language that threatens to cut federal funding from cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities by reporting undocumented immigrants, even if these individuals have not committed serious or repeated offenses. The executive order claims that sanctuary cities willfully violate federal law by protecting undocumented immigrants and has resulted in immeasurable harm to the people of the United States and the country. Therefore, the policy authorizes Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (Jeff Sessions) and Secretary of Homeland Security John Francis Kelly to take away federal funding from sanctuary cities, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes. Given the ambiguity of the term “sanctuary city,” Garcetti and Beck—along with other mayors and law enforcement officials—have requested John F. Kelly to provide a fixed definition of what the federal government considers to be a sanctuary city.

Despite the claims made by President Trump, several studies have concluded that there is no correlation between crime rates and the levels of immigration. Both census-data driven studies and macro-level studies indicate that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the native-born population. In fact, some of these studies have found that a higher immigration rate contributed to a decline in certain types of crimes. One explanation for the lower criminality rates is that immigrants who commit crimes can be deported.

Mayor Eric Garcetti

Mayor Garcetti announcing the new expansion of Community Safety Partnership in South Los Angeles, California

Although the executive order has not yet been fully implemented, the policy is already impacting cities like Los Angeles. Chief Beck recently indicated that there has been a drop among Latino Angelenos that are reporting domestic violence and sexual assault. Sex assault reports are down 25-percent and domestic violence claims are down 10-percent year-to-date. Beck attributes the decrease to fears of deportation from the Latino immigrant community.

President Trump argues that by signing this executive order, the public safety of our communities will be improved. However, in Los Angeles the opposite effect seems to be taking place, as there is already a decrease in reports of domestic violence and sexual assault among Latino Angelenos. Furthermore, such policies only jeopardize the existing relationship between the immigrant community and local police authorities, as it creates a climate of distrust from immigrants towards police officials. What have been the public safety benefits of declaring your community a sanctuary city? What alternative policies and practices could be adopted to improve the public safety of our communities?

*It should be noted that Mayor Eric Garcetti has refused to use the term “sanctuary city” when referring to the City of Los Angeles. He has indicated that he still is not sure what a sanctuary city is.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.


Sanctuary City: The Meaning, History, and Significance of Adopting These Protective Policies

*This blog post is part one of a four-part blog series dedicated to the topic of sanctuary cities.

Barstow Presbytarian Church, Barstow, Texas

Presbyterian Church, Barstow, Texas

In January 25, 2017, President Donald John Trump signed the Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States. The order contains a clause that targets sanctuary cities in the United States. Arguing national security concerns, President Trump’s executive order seeks to cut billions of dollars in federal funding from sanctuary cities, counties, and states that harbor undocumented immigrants. If implemented, the order would negatively impact sanctuary places across the nation.

What is a sanctuary city? While there is no single definition for a “sanctuary city,” it usually refers to cities, counties, and states that have adopted policies that limit their cooperation or involvement with federal immigration authorities. In general, this means that these places decline most requests to detain, pursue, or report undocumented immigrants who have had contact with local law enforcement. However, these protective policies do not safeguard immigrants who commit serious or violent crimes.

The idea of sanctuary cities dates to the early 1980s. At the time, Central Americans were fleeing the civil war and violence in countries like El Salvador and Guatemala. Yet, the United States government initially refused to grant them refugee status. In response, churches decided to provide sanctuary to these immigrants.

San Francisco City Hall

San Francisco City Hall, San Francisco, California

The concept was later adopted by communities whose local officials viewed the federal immigration policies as harsh towards individuals who were arrested for minor, non-violent crimes. Furthermore, both local police and politicians have indicated that not collaborating with immigration authorities encourage immigrants to report crimes to local authorities and make communities safer. This concern is reiterated in a report published in May 2013 by the University of Illinois at Chicago. The report’s findings reveal that when local authorities collaborate with federal immigration officials, it becomes more difficult to investigate crimes because victims or witnesses that are undocumented immigrants are less likely to come forward since they are afraid of being detained and deported.

There is not an exact figure as to the number of sanctuary cities and counties in the United States. However, according to data collected from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, there are 635 counties where the local police does not currently collaborate with requests from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to hold immigrants in detention (ICE detainers) for additional time.

Despite the president’s threat to withhold federal funding, mayors and police chiefs from major cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco have reaffirmed their commitment to uphold sanctuary polices. Moreover, they have expressed their opposition to the executive order. Local government officials from these cities argue that cutting federal funding from sanctuary cities would generate adverse effects to the economy, public safety, and social fabric of these communities.

Yet, some of the claims made by opponents of sanctuary cities are:

  • Sanctuary cities encourage undocumented immigration;
  • Sanctuary cities compromise public safety because it results in crimes that could have been avoided through deportation; and,
  • Sanctuary cities provide haven for drug cartels, gangs, and terrorist cells—since their activities are less likely to be detected and reported by law enforcement.
Local Police Assistance with Deportations

Local Police Assistance with Deportations by State, United States. Source: Immigrant Legal Resource Center

However, Tom K. Wong, associate professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego did a study on sanctuary counties. Wong analyzed a sample of 2,492 counties from an ICE dataset. In the sample, 608 counties were identified as “sanctuary counties” because local law enforcement did not accept detainers requests from ICE to hold suspected undocumented individuals in custody for additional time. Some of his findings include:

  • There are 35.5 fewer violent and property crimes per 10,000 people in sanctuary counties versus non-sanctuary ones;
  • On average, sanctuary counties had higher median incomes (by about $4,353);
  • There is lower poverty (by 2.3 percent) in sanctuary counties; and
  • Sanctuary counties have slightly lower unemployment rates (1.1 percent)

Therefore, Wong concluded that sanctuary counties that protect all of their residents have a lower crime and higher economic well-being than non-sanctuary counties.

 As of the writing of this blog, the executive order is under litigation. San Francisco was the first city to sue the president arguing that it is a violation of the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment.

The president argues that implementation of the executive order will ensure the public safety of the nation. However, by targeting sanctuary cities, the order will only serve an antithetical result, as the public safety, economy, and social fabric of local communities will be affected. It will discourage undocumented immigrants from collaborating with local law enforcement, dissuade them from contributing to the local economy, and ultimately separate them from their families. What policies does your community currently have that would identify it as a sanctuary? How have sanctuary policies benefited or affected your community?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.