Sanctuary city policy: A mechanism for reducing inequalities by immigrant status in Latino children’s mental health

Do sanctuary city policies help protect the mental health of Latinx immigrant children and their parents?

Mounting evidence shows that immigrant children, especially those with one or more parents with undocumented status, live in fear that a parent will be detained or deported, negatively impacting their mental health. Research suggests this fear extends to all Latinx youth, regardless of parental immigrant status. Sanctuary city policies, which aim to protect immigrants from restrictive national immigration policies, may function as a macro-level protective factor for the mental health of Latinx children. Ayón and colleagues will use a three-part quasi-experimental analysis strategy to estimate the effect of sanctuary city policies on the mental health of Latinx children and their parents in California by immigrant origin status and authorization status. Combining a dataset they collected on the adoption of sanctuary and anti-sanctuary policies across the state’s 482 cities with data from the California Health Interview Survey, the team will use: 1) a synthetic control analysis that compares sanctuary cities pre- and post-policy adoption with a “synthetic” match of cities with pre-policy similarities on key variables, 2) a difference-in-difference approach using year and geographic fixed effects that accounts for parallel trend assumptions, and 3) an interrupted time series design applied to two large sanctuary cities in California (Los Angeles and San Jose). By examining how a macro-level policy may improve the mental health of immigrant children at the micro level, this study stands to inform policy discussions about how to protect immigrant youth and their families amidst rising xenophobia.