Recent headlines on illegal immigration claim that since Phoenix dropped its sanctuary city status in 2008, the crime rate in the city has dropped significantly. We choose 2008 because that was the year SB 1070, the law that makes it a crime in Arizona to be an undocumented immigrant and effectively requires racial profiling, was passed.

Typically, the reports claiming an increase in crime quote an officer of a law enforcement group, or a “police department source,” who explains why the crime rate is dropping – it’s the fear of discovery by law enforcement of their illegal immigration status that’s doing it, they tell us!

It’s an Interesting argument, but it seems to be based largely on fantasy. We looked at the yearly crime statistics for violent crime, and what we found is that between 2008 and 2015 (the last full reporting year available), violent crime in Phoenix was a mixed bag: murders were down; rapes were up; robberies were down; and assaults were up.

Ok, so the statistics don’t support the argument that sanctuary city status leads to higher crime. But even if the statistics did show an increase in crime over the past 8 or 10 years, what makes anyone think that sanctuary city status is the cause? First, lots of things have been going on since 2008 which could affect the number of crimes in Phoenix, or in any city for that matter. Economic conditions, drug addiction and numerous other factors certainly come into play. Second, the root of the argument made by those who want to blame illegal immigration for our woes is that criminals in non-sanctuary cities will be aware of that and “take notice,” according to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. We don’t want to poke fun at the AG, but it is a bit comical to suggest that prior to committing a robbery, a crack addict reviews the immigration policy in his current location.

If we were suspicious folks, we might conclude that the “sanctuary cities are hotbeds of crime” argument is just a ruse to hide an underlying anti-ethnic motive. We also suspect that, like so many other issues, the political climate is being shaped not by what’s right or what’s good for the citizens, but by the lobbying efforts of the industries that benefit from the policies.

In this case, we can’t help but notice that the prison industry, which has spent tens of millions of dollars on campaign contributions and lobbying efforts, is the primary beneficiary of immigration detention, and hence, of tighter immigration controls. And one of the largest prison companies is Correctional Centers of American, which operates half a dozen facilities in Arizona. In fact, we’ve been told that the draconian SB 1070 was written largely by CCA’s lobbyists in Washington, D.C.

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