Anti-immigration enforcement advocates have long touted the thoroughly debunked myth that sanctuary cities make America safer because illegal aliens will become more likely to report crimes if they face no risk of deportation. This argument is always based on either pure opinion, or extremely shaky data. A February 5 “analysis” written by Harvard PhD candidates in The Washington Post is no different.

First, the authors make no effort
to hide that they already made up their minds on this issue before beginning
their research. This, of course, hampers their credibility as professional researchers
who are supposedly following the scientific method (which includes approaching
a topic from a standpoint of skepticism to combat cognitive biases). Second,
while they claim that their research is “empirical,” it is actually nothing
more than a collection of poorly constructed conclusions based on largely
inapplicable correlations.

For example, the authors tried to claim that immigration enforcement measures hamper crime reporting because, in the cities they examined, “as the intensity of [law enforcement measures]increased, the reported crime rate decreased.” However, this assumes that crime still occurs at the same rate, but that people are less willing to report it to the authorities. However, it is a well-established fact that when the law is enforced vigorously, fewer people tend to break the law, making crime rates decrease. This is for a simple reason – people are more likely to break the law when they know they can get away with it. So this correlation fails to prove their hypothesis at all. On the contrary, it suggests that increased enforcement of our immigration laws indeed caused overall crime to decrease.

The only half-hearted effort made to provide empirical proof that sanctuary cities increase the likelihood that immigrants will report crimes was the reference of a recent study called “Immigrant Sanctuary Policies and Crime-Reporting Behavior: A Multilevel Analysis of Reports of Crime Victimization to Law Enforcement, 1980 to 2004.” However, this study is fatally flawed for two reasons:

1. It only uses data from before 2004, when sanctuary cities were relatively rare. In fact, there were only 11 sanctuary jurisdictions in 2000, compared to more than 550 today. This means that there certainly was not enough data available to make any kind of relevant comparison to the issue as it exists today.

2. The report
also admits that no studies exist which prove a causal link between sanctuary
policies and an increased willingness to report crimes. Instead, the authors
created a set of variables derived from broad correlations not directly
associated with immigration status and applied them to hypothetical scenarios
that did relate to immigration status. As the common statistical adage goes:
“correlation does not equal causation.” This is especially true when the
correlation is not directly related to the issue being studied.

Finally, the biased authors also bemoaned the fact that “when the risk of deportation goes up, undocumented immigrants and their relatives are less likely to apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to rely on Medicaid for health care, or to seek help from the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC).” This is for good reason – it is unlawful for illegal aliens to receive federal welfare. Suggesting that sanctuary policies are a good thing because they encourage welfare fraud is not a particularly strong argument for their existence.

As is often the case with
out-of-touch academics who promote open borders, this so-called “analysis”
actually offers more proof that sanctuary cities harm Americans than it suggests
that they help. It hardly takes a collection of PhD candidates to understand
that if a jurisdiction openly declares that the law will not be enforced,
lawlessness will increase. However, facts and data rarely get in the way of
anti-immigration enforcement advocates. Their goal is to use whatever means
necessary – including false science – to prop up their Americans-last agenda.

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