Guest Column

What is a Sanctuary City and How Does it Affect Your Neighborhood


PATERSON, N.J. - This past week saw a slew of New Jersey mayors and elected officials sign orders upholding their sanctuary status, which has been met with a mixture of both optimism and skepticism. TAPinto Paterson takes a closer look of what "sanctuary city" actually means. 

What is a "sanctuary city"?

Sanctuary cities or counties, are areas where the local law enforcement do not comply with ICE orders to detainee illegal immigrants for 48 hours, in order to cross reference their finger prints. If the prints come back as someone tied to criminal activity, ICE will decide whether or not to start the deportation process. If not the person is released after having been detained for no charges except immigration status. There have been court battles over whether detaining immigrants without actual charges is in violation of the constitution. 

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What are the concerns of residents/taxpayers?

Over the weekend there were multiple people who took to social media to comment on the interfaith march in Paterson as well as neighboring Prospect Park which signed an order upholding the equal services and rights of all residents. Many pointed to "facts" that have been a part of the anti-immigrant campaigns such as the diverting of public funds from residents to immigrants, higher crime rates, and the threat of pulling federal funding.

Let's break this down starting with the diverting of public funds. According to a landmark study in September 2015, the Center for Immigration Studies it is noted that legal immigrants, which means immigrants whom are either citizens or on their path to citizenship, consume the most welfare per capita. At no time was there any data to suggest any non citizen received welfare or state assistance as they do not qualify. However it is noted that any child of an illegal immigrant, by constitutional right, is a citizen of the United States and so immigrant mothers can apply for benefits for their children such as SNAP, which provides food and discounted lunches at school, among other benefits. 

In regards to federal funding and services it is also important to review the numbers issued by the IRS in regards to the most net tax revenue paid to the federal government. This is done by calculating the amount of tax revenue a state pays, minus the federal funding it receives. New Jersey, the state which encompasses the City of Paterson, Prospect Park, Jersey City, Newark, East Orange, and many other sanctuary cities, is number one in net tax revenue. Many of the other states with "sanctuary cities" also fall within top net tax with New York ranking number two, Illinois is four, Massachusetts is six, Ohio is seven, and California is nine. 

What about crime? Are these countries "not sending us their best"?

Surprisingly in a new study conducted by political scientist Tom L. Wong at the University of California-San Diego found that on average sanctuary cities experienced 35.5 fewer crimes per 10,000 people than those that complied with ICE. Wong's study found that there were broad benefits from being a sanctuary city which was found through analysis of thousands of county information and tens of parameters such as average annual income, unemployment, crime, and households receiving public benefits.

Wong asserted in his study that in localties where they stay out of federal immigration enforcement are seeing their crime rates go down particularly cities like New York City, Paterson NJ, Newark NJ, and Los Angeles to name a few. The American Immigration Council also backed up this assertion in a 2015 study of their own which stated that the recent period of rising immigration to the United States from 1990 to 2013 also corresponded with the plummeting crime rates across the country. According to federal statistics crime is near a 50 year low on average across the country. 

What if my county or city loses federal funding due to being a sanctuary city?

Well first off its important to look into whether or not your municipality is even getting federal funds. According to records and a statement from Prospect Park mayor Mohamed Khairullah, their borough does not receive federal funds. In fact considering the states that have such sanctuary cities, largely generate a surplus of tax revenue and positive net tax revenue, those stated certainly have leverage.

In New Jersey alone lawmakers are in the final stages of pushing a bill forward that would take from that surplus and fund cities that get their federal funding pulled. Advocates of the bill, lawmakers, and political scientists all say that cities stand to lose more money on law enforcement to enforce federal immigration for ICE, in additional to the loss of revenue from the consumption of goods and services from illegal immigrants who do contribute to the local economy, than if the cities were to lose federal funding.

If Immigrants don't pay income taxes how do they benefit the communities they live in?

Another big misconception is that immigrants do not pay taxes, and if you do not pay income taxes you are not contributing to the economy. In 2013 alone immigrants added $1.6 trillion dollars to our gross domestic product according to the Center for American Progress. 

Immigrants are also responsible for some of the biggest companies in American history, in fact in just 2010 40% of Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants or their children. This includes symbolically American brands such as Apple, Google, McDonalds, General Electric, Bank of America, and Yahoo. Steve Jobs himself was the son of a Syrian man and in theory could have himself been affected by the recent travel ban. These companies combined generated more than $1.7 trillion in revenue and employed 3.6 million people in the United States alone in just 2010.

Although the figures above consist of both legal and illegal immigrants, it is important to note that the travel ban which is the direct factor in many of these marches and declarations, did indeed effect mostly legal immigrants. 

How do 'illegal' immigrants contribute to the economy?

According to the Center for American Progress "The 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants living the U.S. today contribute $11.64 billion in state and local taxes each year. The Social Security Administration estimates that unauthorized immigrants contribute a net of $13 billion in payroll taxes annually, which helps to strengthen the Social Security system". 

Immigrants no matter their immigration status also consume products and services in the communities which they pay sales tax on, and also provides profits for local business. Neighborhoods, cities, and states with higher percentages of immigrants have more small businesses on average, which creates diversity from big box stores and chains, and also creates niche markets of specialty goods and restaurants. Small businesses help to create competition which vastly improves the services, pricing, and customer services in all businesses in the community.


The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Guest Column.

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