Researchers at Stanford University this week published a study that may bolster the argument that policies aimed at encouraging immigrants to come out of the shadows actually improve public safety. They found that a 2013 California law that granted driver's licenses to immigrants in the country illegally reduced hit-and-run accidents by 7 to 10 percent in 2015, meaning roughly 4,000 fewer hit-and-runs. In that same year, 600,000 people got driver's licenses under the law.
It was the first time researchers had studied the effectiveness of such driver's license laws, which have generated significant controversy nationally. Opponents have argued that granting licenses to immigrants in the U.S. illegally is dangerous.
It's a rhetorical cudgel often wielded by those opposed to offering protection or other forms of help to immigrants in the U.S. illegally, and it frequently relies on a notion that immigrants without legal status are more prone to violence and other forms of delinquency. President Trump has often argued that those opposed to a federal government crackdown on illegal immigration do so at the expense of public safety.
This idea was central to Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement last month that the federal government intended to withhold federal funds from cities that adopt so-called sanctuary policies aimed at shielding immigrants in the U.S. illegally. "These policies," he said, "endanger the lives of every American."
In fact, research has generally shown that cities that adopt sanctuary policies tend to be safer than those that don't, because immigrants not fearful that a routine interaction with their local police could end in their deportation are more likely to report crimes in their communities.