Since the US Supreme Court announced it would hear arguments regarding Trump's travel ban Republicans have once again fixed their attention on immigration. On June 29 the House of Representatives passed "Kate's Law," named after Kate Steinle, a 32-year-old who was allegedly murdered by a man who had been deported multiple times. Steinle's murder in 2015 focused Republican attention on "sanctuary cities" such as San Francisco, where she was killed.
In addition to Kate's Law, the House also passed the "No Sanctuary For Criminals Act." That legislation seeks to withhold federal grants from sanctuary cities and would allow victims of crimes committed by undocumented individuals to sue those cities.
As part of right-wing media's ongoing attack on sanctuary cities, Fox News published an article on June 30 that claimed Phoenix, Arizona has seen a drop in crime since 2008, when the municipality decided to stop following sanctuary city policies. The story is a prime example of cherry-picking data to make a point.
The Fox News article contradicts itself almost from the start. The author, William Lajeunesse, references a University of California study that supposedly found that sanctuary cities have a slightly higher violent crime rate. But then he says,
It [the UC study] concluded there was "no statistically discernible difference in violent crime rates, rape, or property crime across" 55 cities studied.
Lajeunesse then goes on to tell the story of Phoenix, where police sources say that abandoning sanctuary city status has led to a drop in crime.
In the eyes of Levi Bolton, executive director to the Arizona Police Association, that would be a mistake. In May 2008, Phoenix reversed itself, becoming a non-sanctuary state. Under the policy, police had full discretion to ask suspects about their immigration status and had the freedom to call ICE.
"We saw a decrease in crime," said Bolton. "It had a deterrent effect on folks because the risk of discovery went up exponentially when we actually enforced the law."
Bolton served with Mark Spencer, who spent 25 years patrolling in Phoenix.
"When we eliminated our sanctuary policy back in 2008, we saw crime, violent and stolen vehicles fall by 25 percent," he recalled. "We saw a 20-year low crime rate. When we were allowed and had the discretion to contact our federal immigration partners, crime fell drastically."
This story is a prime example of how the right manipulates information to their advantage. What the article claims is mostly accurate -- as far as it goes. But there is a larger story here, and it's one that Fox, Trump, and Republicans don't want to tell: crime dropped in most of the country's 20 largest cities between 2008 and 2015, the last full year with statistics available.
According to an April 2017 list published on Dopplr, eight of the largest American cities have official "sanctuary city" status: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Detroit, San Francisco, and Austin. And, just like Phoenix (as well as other non-sanctuary cities), those municipalities saw decreases in most categories of crime.
The best thing to do is to let the numbers speak for themselves. The table below contains the data from the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report for the years 2008 and 2015. You can see from the numbers that sanctuary city status has no connection to any increase or decrease in crime. None. That is, unless you want to pick out the information that fits your argument and ignore the rest, like Fox News did.
(A couple of notes on the data: The "rape" category was removed from the table because a change in the definition of rape made the data from 2008 and 2015 impossible to compare. There are a few cells that are marked as an "increase" or "decrease" where the change is probably statistically insignificant. In a few instances, data was missing from the FBI report, and is therefore missing in this table.)