December 2019

IZA DP No. 12868: Can Sanctuary Polices Reduce Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence remains a serious public problem, especially in Hispanic communities, where one in three women are victims of domestic violence in their lifetimes. Yet, less than 50 percent of Hispanic women report the incidents, indicating lack of confidence in the police and fear they might be asked about their immigration status or that of relatives and friends as two main motives for not reporting. We examine the extent to which the adoption of sanctuary policies, which limit the cooperation of local law enforcement with federal immigration authorities, affect domestic homicide rates – a crime rarely unreported. We find that sanctuary policies lower domestic homicide rates among Hispanic women, but have no effect on white-non Hispanic women or men. The impact is particularly large in counties with higher immigration enforcement and in those with more female officers. On the other hand, sanctuary policies are less effective in counties withmandated arrest laws in place. These findings are suggestive of the important role of policies that increase community trust in the police in curtailing domestic violence, whether it is by promoting the early reporting of incidents, inhibiting potential offenders or increasing women's economic independence.