The Cost of Compassion in a Sanctuary City

Like many other sanctuary cities across the United States, Chicago is quickly discovering that freedom for immigrants comes at a cost. As President Trump’s plan to cut federal funding for cities that refuse to back down continues to try to compel these safe havens to cooperate, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel assures Chicago residents that the city will remain a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.

What is a Sanctuary City?

The term “sanctuary city” refers to a state or local jurisdiction that refuses to comply with federal orders to detain immigrants who are undocumented, or in the United States illegally. These jurisdictions typically adopt policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Chicago has joined more than 300 other government jurisdictions (about 106 of which are cities) across the nation in claiming sanctuary status.

Although critics assert that sanctuary cities threaten the safety of everyone in these communities by allowing violent or otherwise dangerous criminals to go free, in fact, the opposite is true. Recent studies have revealed that Trump’s immigration crackdown is already causing a significant negative impact on violent crime and the trust between immigrants and local law enforcement that comes with being a sanctuary city is an effective remedy. According to reports, undocumented immigrants in safe havens like Chicago are more likely to report crimes and being victims of violent acts, and are more apt to assist with solving crimes and providing testimony when they don’t have the fear of deportation hanging over their heads.

How Much Does Chicago Stand to Lose by Remaining a Sanctuary City?

Forbes reports that major cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. have the most to lose. According to the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, should the law that will tie federal funding to immigration compliance pass, Chicago alone could stand to lose approximately $1.33 billion in 2017. In FY2016, Chicago received the second highest amount of federal funding on a per capita basis, second only to Washington, D.C. And recent reports reveal that the city received about $1,942 in federal funding per person which equals nearly $8,000 per family of four and a whopping $5.3 billion total.

While a few cities, like Miami, FL have already reversed their sanctuary status because of the fear of lost funding, Chicago means business. Mayor Emanuel continues to vow that Chicago is a welcoming city, and plans to support the freedom of immigrants despite the cost.