How State Pre-emption of “Sanctuary City” Laws and Policies Affect Immigrant Health

Principal Investigators
Social Sciences and Health Policy, Wake Forest School of Medicine
Social Sciences and Health Policy, Wake Forest School of Medicine
Funded on

Municipal laws and policies affect the social, economic, and legal conditions of civic and private lives of immigrants in profound ways, including both direct access to health services, as well as broader social determinants, such as employment, housing, education, transportation, and law enforcement.

Municipalities (counties and cities) range widely from being hostile to or welcoming of immigrants (both documented and undocumented). On the more welcoming end of the spectrum are what are often referred to as “sanctuary cities,” which limit cooperation with federal immigration law enforcement, beyond prosecuting violations of state and local criminal laws.

However, at least nine states have laws that pre-empt local municipal protective laws and policies in some fashion because of political and social controversies over enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Using rigorous mixed methods, the research team will systematically examine the consequences of state preemption of protective municipal laws and policies on the health and well-being of immigrants. There are three main components to the project:

  1. A national legal analysis of state pre-emption laws;
  2. A profile of municipal laws and policies affecting the Culture of Health for immigrants; and
  3. Community-focused qualitative research of the effect of state pre-emption on the Culture of Health for Latinx immigrants in municipalities previously identified as sanctuaries.

The findings have the potential to help inform states that are debating the adoption of pre-emption laws and those that have pre-empted protective municipal laws and policies with identifying and possibly mitigating any potential detriments to health and well-being.