New Report Shows Sanctuary Counties Have Less Crime and Stronger Economies

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Image courtesy of Kate Gardiner (CC License)

According to a new report published by the Center for American Progress and the National Immigration Law Center, counties that adopt sanctuary policies have lower crime rates and stronger economies than those that do not. While there is no set definition for “sanctuary” policies, it is generally accepted that they are policies that protect undocumented immigrants from ICE, such as not honoring ICE administrative warrants or prohibiting ICE from entering state-owned campuses, hospitals, and other public buildings.

Key findings of the study include:

  • There are 35.5 fewer crimes committed per 10,000 people in sanctuary counties compared to non-sanctuary counties.
  • The median household annual income is $4,353 higher on average in sanctuary counties.
  • The poverty rate is 2.3 percent lower in sanctuary counties.
  • The unemployment rate is 1.1 percent lower in sanctuary counties.
  • Labor force participation, the proportion of the population that is 16 years and older that is in the labor force, 2.5 percent higher in sanctuary counties.
  • Public assistance is on average 0.9 percent lower in sanctuary counties.

Many critics have argued that the presence of undocumented immigrants increases crime rates, but the data does not support this claim. “Purported links between sanctuary policies and crime are simply not supported by the evidence,” said the author Tom K. Wong, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego “Rather, what the data suggest is that by keeping [undocumented people] out of federal immigration enforcement, sanctuary counties are keeping families together, and when households remain intact and individuals can continue contributing, local economies are strengthened, bringing benefits to the economy as a whole.”

The report concludes, “This research represents one of the first systematic analyses comparing sanctuary counties to non-sanctuary counties across a range of social and economic indicators. Of course, further research will be needed to examine differences in outcomes within sanctuary jurisdictions across time, but for now, the findings described here paint a clear portrait: To the extent that localities become entangled in federal immigration enforcement efforts, they put in jeopardy the social and economic gains—from lower crime to a stronger local economy—that come with sanctuary policies.”

You can read the report here, or you can read the Spanish version here.


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