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Immigration Enforcement and Public Safety (WP-24-06)

Felipe Gonçalves, Elisa Jácome, and Emily Weisburst

How does immigration enforcement affect public safety? Heightened enforcement could reduce crime by deterring and incapacitating immigrant offenders or, alternatively, increase crime by discouraging victims from reporting offenses. The researchers study the U.S. Secure Communities program, which expanded interior enforcement against unauthorized immigrants. Using national survey data, they find that the program reduced the likelihood that Hispanic victims reported crimes to police and increased the victimization of Hispanics. Total reported crimes are unchanged, masking these opposing effects. The researchers provide evidence that reduced Hispanic reporting is the key driver of increased victimization. Their findings underscore the importance of trust in institutions as a central determinant of public safety.

Felipe Gonçalves, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of California Los Angeles

Elisa Jácome, Assistant Professor of Economics and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

Emily Weisburst, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, University of California Los Angeles

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