March 21, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 26, 2017) — In one of the first systematic analyses comparing sanctuary counties to non-sanctuary counties across a range of social and economic indicators, a report released jointly Thursday by the Center for American Progress and the National Immigration Law Center finds that crime is statistically significantly lower in sanctuary counties compared to non-sanctuary counties.

The report also finds that economies are stronger in sanctuary counties, with higher median household income, less poverty, less reliance on public assistance, higher labor force participation, higher employment-to-population ratios, and lower unemployment.

The data in the report support arguments made by law enforcement executives that communities are safer when law enforcement agencies do not become entangled in federal immigration enforcement efforts and instead focus on keeping families safe and together. Data analyzed for the report also show that when counties protect all of their residents, they see significant economic gains.

“Purported links between sanctuary policies and crime are simply not supported by the evidence,” said Tom K. Wong, associate professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, and author of the report. “Rather, what the data suggest is that by keeping 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.”

Main findings included in the report:

  • There are, on average, 35.5 fewer crimes committed per 10,000 people in sanctuary counties compared to nonsanctuary counties.
  • Median household annual income is, on average, $4,353 higher in sanctuary counties compared to nonsanctuary counties.
  • The poverty rate is 2.3 percent lower, on average, in sanctuary counties compared to nonsanctuary counties.
  • Unemployment is, on average, 1.1 percent lower in sanctuary counties compared to nonsanctuary counties.
  • While the results hold true across sanctuary jurisdictions, the sanctuary counties with the smallest populations see the most pronounced effects.

Read the full report here (also available en Español here)

The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

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