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Recently there was a bill in the New Hampshire House to ban sanctuary cities in New Hampshire.  EVERY Democrat voted against it.  Can we afford it?

The concept of sanctuary cities has been a topic of intense debate in recent years. Sanctuary cities, which limit cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities, are often seen as a way to protect undocumented immigrants and foster trust between immigrant communities and local authorities. While the debate on the social and ethical aspects of sanctuary cities is ongoing, it is essential to also examine the financial implications of this policy. Simply put, being a sanctuary city incurs substantial costs, places burdens on municipal budgets, law enforcement agencies, and taxpayers.

Increased Social Services and Welfare Costs

Sanctuary cities often attract undocumented immigrants seeking refuge from immigration enforcement. While this may align with the humanitarian goals of such policies, it also places an increased burden on local social services and welfare programs. Undocumented immigrants and their families may require access to public services such as healthcare, education, and housing assistance, which can strain municipal budgets.

Because undocumented immigrants often lack legal work authorization, they may face higher rates of unemployment and underemployment, further increasing their reliance on social services. As a result, sanctuary cities may need to allocate additional funds to meet the growing demand for these services.

In Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey’s budget proposal for fiscal 2024 includes $324 million for the shelter system to house illegals.

Legal and Administrative Costs

One of the most significant financial burdens associated with sanctuary cities is the legal and administrative costs incurred in defending and implementing such policies. Legal battles are not uncommon when it comes to sanctuary city status, as they often face opposition from state and federal governments. Municipalities must allocate funds for legal defense and related expenses, including court fees and attorney fees, to protect their sanctuary status.

The administrative workload increases as local authorities must navigate complex regulations and documentation related to immigration enforcement. This necessitates the hiring of specialized personnel and the development of training programs, all of which come with a price tag.

Law Enforcement Expenses

Sanctuary cities often prohibit local law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration authorities in the apprehension and detention of undocumented immigrants. While proponents argue that this fosters trust within immigrant communities, critics contend it places strain on local law enforcement agencies.

For instance, police officers need to undergo training to distinguish between federal immigration violations and criminal activities. This can lead to additional costs in terms of both time and resources. Furthermore, sanctuary cities may face increased demands on their police forces, as some argue that these policies attract undocumented immigrants, potentially leading to higher crime rates that necessitate additional law enforcement resources.

Loss of Federal Funding

One of the most notable financial consequences of sanctuary city status is the risk of losing federal funding. In the past, the federal government has threatened to cut off funding to cities that do not comply with immigration enforcement efforts. While these threats have faced legal challenges and have not always resulted in funding cuts, the uncertainty alone can create financial instability for municipalities.

Losing federal funds can affect various city programs and services, from public safety and transportation infrastructure to healthcare and education. This places an added strain on municipal budgets and often results in increased taxes or reduced services for residents.

The Bottom Line

While sanctuary cities are often driven by compassionate and humanitarian goals, it is crucial to recognize the financial challenges they can pose to local governments and taxpayers. The legal and administrative costs, law enforcement expenses, potential loss of federal funding, and increased demand for social services all contribute to a significant financial burden. Striking a balance between the social and financial aspects of sanctuary city policies is essential to make informed decisions that benefit both immigrant communities and the broader population.

1. See Influx of migrants in Massachusetts continues to overwhelm state resources — and more may be on the way (