Providing Sanctuary or Fostering Crime? A Review of the Research on “Sanctuary Cities” and Crime​

Daniel E. Martínez, Ricardo D. Martínez-Schuldt, Guillermo Cantor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Recent high-profile, isolated incidents of violent crime committed by deportable noncitizens have led to increased public attention paid to so-called “sanctuary” cities, with some policymakers calling for the eradication of policies limiting local officials' role in the enforcement of immigration law. This current public and political debate provides an opportunity to critically examine the existing literature on immigrant “sanctuaries.” We begin by offering a broad definition and description of “sanctuary” policies. We follow by discussing how and why such policies have evolved since the early 1980s. Considering the public safety concerns often articulated in contemporary political discourse, we then offer possible sociological explanations regarding how these policies might either be positively or negatively associated with crime. We subsequently highlight findings from existing empirical research that examines the relationship between the adoption or presence of “sanctuary” policies and crime. The few empirical studies that exist illustrate a “null” or negative relationship between these policies and crime. We conclude by offering possible directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12547
JournalSociology Compass
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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