Fear and the Safety Net: Evidence from Secure Communities


This paper studies how changes in deportation fear induced by the roll-out of Secure Communities (SC), a far-reaching immigration enforcement program, affected the demand for safety net programs in the United States. We estimate the spillover effect of SC on the take-up of federal means-tested programs by Hispanic citizens, who are not themselves eligible for removal. We find significant declines in SNAP and SSI enrollment, particularly among mixed-citizenship status households. The response is muted for Hispanic households residing in sanctuary cities. Our results are most consistent with network effects that perpetuate fear rather than lack of benefit information, measurement error, or stigma.
Last updated on 09/10/2021