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San Diego Professor Finds Sanctuary Counties Are Safer And Economically Stronger

Men sit in the sun in the health ward at the Otay Mesa immigration detention ...

Photo by Associated Press

Above: Men sit in the sun in the health ward at the Otay Mesa immigration detention center in San Diego, May 26, 2010.

San Diego Professor Finds Sanctuary Counties Are Safer And Economically Stronger


Tom Wong, associate political science professor, UC San Diego


Amid the debate over President Trump’s executive action on so-called sanctuary policies, a new analysis finds sanctuary counties are generally safer and economically stronger than non-sanctuary counties.

In the report by UC San Diego associate political science professor Tom Wong, a sanctuary county is one that does not assist federal immigration enforcement officials by holding people in custody beyond their release date.

Among the report's findings when comparing sanctuary counties to non-sanctuary counties:

• There are, on average, 35.5 fewer crimes committed per 10,000 people in sanctuary counties.

• Median household annual income is, on average, $4,353 higher in sanctuary counties.

• The poverty rate is 2.3 percent lower, on average, in sanctuary counties.

• Unemployment is, on average, 1.1 percent lower in sanctuary counties.

• While the results hold true across sanctuary jurisdictions, the sanctuary counties with the smallest populations see the most pronounced effects.

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department told the San Diego Union-Tribune that it does not hold inmates past their release date, in accordance with California law. However, the department does cooperate with federal immigration authorities and has Immigration Customs Enforcement agents who work in their booking facilities.

"San Diego is a interesting place. On the one hand, San Diego generally does not comply with detainer requests because of our California statewide Trust Act. But, San Diego also finds ways to assist federal immigration enforcement officials specifically by having ICE agents in county jails," Wong said.

The analysis is based on FBI crime data. It was published by the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.

"The data are clear. If we compare sanctuary counties to comparable non-sanctuary counties, we see lower crime rates. And so this is after controlling for other important demographic factors. So, the idea that there is higher crime in sanctuary counties is simply not reflected in the data," said Wong.

Wong discusses the report's findings Monday on Midday Edition.


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