Opinion: Anti-sanctuary city bills would hurt Michigan

Jewell Jones and Samuel Garcia
Anti-sanctuary cities bills would damage Michigan's economic and social well being, Jones and Garcia write.

There are three reasons why anti-sanctuary cities bills, like House Bill 4083 and House Bill 4090, are not good for Michigan. The first is obvious: They could tear apart the thousands of families in Michigan that have mixed citizenship statuses. The second has been proven by data gathered after Texas passed a similar policies: They strongly disincentive immigrants from accessing or cooperating with the police. The third is based in common sense economics: The flexibility of our labor force depends on having a variety of qualified people on hand that are ready to work.

Michigan is proudly home to thousands of immigrants who have come to the state in order to work hard and earn a better life. In fact, a little over 8% of native born citizens in Michigan have at least one parent who is an immigrant. Once a bill like this is passed, many of those families will live every day in fear of interacting with the authorities and facing deportation. There will inevitably be some that are deported as a result of the anti-sanctuary cities policies, and the children who they leave behind may face long term emotional consequences. High stress caused by family separation can lead to irreparable harm in children.

Next, although the bill was marked as a way of making our communities and law enforcement safer, the available data we have from Texas implementing a similar bill suggests otherwise. Since immigrants will have an increased fear of deportation, it makes sense that crime reporting will go down, which will certainly make us all less safe. The data from Texas has shown that in the same year Texas' anti-sanctuary cities bill passed (SB4), domestic abuse reporting in Houston dropped by 16% among the Latino community. The police have attributed the drop in domestic abuse reporting to SB4's passing and an increasing hostility to illegal immigration. 

Politicians pushing this kind of legislation want us to believe that these bills will get dangerous criminals off the streets, and that this will outweigh the drop in crime reporting. Data from a South Carolina immigration enforcement program has shown, however, that only a very small minority of their immigrant apprehensions had anything to do with drugs, trafficking or gang related activity. In fact, the overwhelming majority of those apprehensions were for nonviolent crimes, like false identification.

Finally, consider the flexibility of our labor force. As Michigan, and the rest of the nation, slowly transitions to a more service based economy, our labor force still needs to be flexible enough to occupy physically intensive jobs all over the state. Traditionally, these jobs have been filled by immigrants all over the country, and Michigan is no exception with immigrants occupying over 16% of the jobs in Michigan’s agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry.

Michigan has done very well in attracting highly skilled immigrants from all over the world to help boost our economy and drive innovation. Almost 40% of the adult immigrants within Michigan have earned a college degree or more. Often times, these highly skilled immigrants have a choice in where they study or work, and if they sense a prevailing anti-immigrant sentiment coming from our anti-sanctuary city policies, there is nothing stopping from them choosing another state.

The available data and the possible repercussions of implementing anti-sanctuary cities bills in Michigan prove that they are not in Michigan’s interest. At some point, we must acknowledge that immigrants are such a big part of Michigan’s community and labor force that any time we subject them to further hardship we are also hurting Michigan.

State Rep. Jewell Jones, D-Inkster, represents Michigan’s 11th House District. Samuel Garcia is a graduate of Harvard Law School.