Dan Cooper, Ph.D., is the executive director for Adler University’s Center for Equitable Cities. He has spent more than a decade working with community-based organizations and coalitions on issues including violence prevention, youth development, housing, economic development, program evaluation, and strategic planning. Here, he recaps the center’s recent work pushing for Illinois’ immigrant rights.
During the spring of 2017, the Center for Equitable Cities partnered with Dr. Gomberg-Munoz, of Loyola University, and The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights to produce research in support of Illinois’ recently enacted TRUST Act.
We believe this bill will protect and strengthen Illinois communities by keeping families together, maintaining trust between police and immigrant communities, and sustaining a diversity that is essential for healthy community life.
The Center on Equitable Cities exists to be a resource to organizations that are working with populations most affected by unfair policies and practices.
The TRUST Act keeps Illinois’ communities safe and healthy by welcoming and protecting immigrants. It does so in the following ways:
- Limits police collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents
- Creates timelines and procedures to protect immigrants who are victims of crimes or witness crimes when they cooperate with law enforcement
- It bars state and local government from creating or using registries of Muslims or any other nationality, ethnic, or religious group.
Back to the Future?
This is a particularly sweet victory for immigrant rights, given how fervent and dangerous anti-immigration sentiments have grown in recent times, and how wrong-headed these sentiments are. Yet, as a nation we’ve continually faced this before. During a surge of anti-immigrant sentiment more than 100 years ago, the federal government issued a study on the relationship between immigration and crime.
When the report was issued it found, rather conclusively, that immigration does not increase crime rates. This study has been repeated hundreds of times, with many variations, and they all have the same conclusion. When you compare adjusted crime rates of immigrants with the native-born population, you find that immigrants commit far less crime. More recent studies are also concluding that higher immigration levels create safer communities by driving down crime rates. You would not know this if you only tuned in to cable news shows.
This is why the work of organizations like the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is so important. Cities that welcome immigrants preserve the trust and cooperation of the community in law enforcement activities, and therefore make communities and neighborhoods safer than communities without welcoming policies. This goes for cities of all sizes and represents an important battleground in the fight to make our cities equitable and prosperous places for all people.