The Effects of Sanctuary Policies on Crime and the Economy
As the Trump administration begins to implement its immigration policy agenda, the issue of local assistance with federal immigration enforcement officials is back in the spotlight. So-called sanctuary jurisdictions are one focus of that debate. Sanctuary counties—as defined by this report—are counties that do not assist federal immigration enforcement officials by holding people in custody beyond their release date. Using an Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, dataset obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, the analyses in this report provide new insights about how sanctuary counties perform across a range of social and economic indicators when compared to nonsanctuary counties.
Among the main findings:
- 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.
Altogether, the data suggest that when local law enforcement focuses on keeping communities safe, rather than becoming entangled in federal immigration enforcement efforts, communities are safer and community members stay more engaged in the local economy. This in turn brings benefits to individual households, communities, counties, and the economy as a whole.
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