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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 center in San Diego, May 26, 2010.
Associated Press
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
San Diego Professor Finds Sanctuary Counties Are Safer And Economically Stronger GUEST: Tom Wong, associate political science professor, UC San Diego

This is trying to. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. President Trump make good on his promise to order federal funding being withheld from sanctuary cities. His rationale for the executive order is the cities and counties are dangerous. He said they have resulted in so many needless deaths. New study of the crime rates seems to tell a different story. I am joined by Tom want who conducted the research. His findings were published by the centers for American progress. There is no legal definition for century city or county. How is it defined in your analysis? We have the benefit of having a data set directly from immigration and customs enforcement. It was obtained via freedom of information by the resource center. We are defining sanctuary jurisdictions in the study in the same way that they are finding jurisdictions. The definition centers on compliance with immigration retainers. These are requests made by ice to hold an individual that is in jail for up to 48 hours beyond their release date. Those sanctuary counties are those counties that do not comply with retainer requests and counties that continue to comply with detainer requests. Where does San Diego County fallen not like San Diego is an interesting place. On one I can't San Diego generally does not comply with detainer requests because of our California statewide trust act. San Diego also finds ways to assist federal immigration officials specifically by having agents in county jails. Are we on that list as a sanctuary county or not quick We are not. Under President Trump's Executive Order he says cities have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and has characterized them as hotbeds of crime. The data is clear if we compare sanctuary counties to comparable non-century counties we see lower crime rates. So the idea of that there is higher crime in sanctuary counties is simply not reflected in the data. What types of crime are you referring to quick When we analyze crime, we are taking data from the FBI's unifier that's uniform crime reports. It is the total number of violent and property crimes per 10,000 people in a locality. Were there exceptions to your overall findings? I think some of the more counterintuitive findings relate to small counties. When we think of these large counties, we typically think of these large metro areas that are on average friendly towards immigrants. We see the most pronounced of facts in small counties where crime is lower and economies are stronger the smaller the counties are. Did you form any idea as to why the crime rates are lower in municipalities? Law enforcement executive desk executives have argued that local police should stay out of the business of immigration enforcement. This is because it makes policing more difficult because it undermines trust that immigrant communities have with local law enforcement. So the punch line for local law enforcement executives is that communities can be safer to the extent that local law enforcement stays out of the business of immigration enforcement. That is what we are seeing reflected in the data. Another part of your study looked at economic data. What did you find when you prepared century counties to non-century counties quick I look like at a number of indicators and across the board what we are seeing is stronger economies in sanctuary localities. I think this reflects an argument that immigration advocates had been making for quite some time that there are negative consequences to deportation. For example, if a locality is engaged in aggressive immigration enforcement, we will see breadwinner separated from the family members. To the extent that those breadwinners are deported and that means Ashley's family more vulnerable. Do we know if indeed the Trump administration is going to be relying on the definition from ice to determine who and what is a sanctuary city? I think that remains to be seen. I think parts of the movement away from complying with immigration detainers was a function of the large number of localities being sued by groups like the ACLU. there holding an individual on immigration detainer for 48 hours after their initial release date was found to be a form of unlawful detention. So locality started pushing back against immigration detainers for fear of having to pay out large sums of money and sometimes even to you as citizens who are held on detainers. So it is hard for me to imagine the reversion back to the widespread use of immigration detainers when courts have found them to be a form of unlawful detention. What you think is significant about your findings in this study? I think in a highly charged political debate the facts are important. Not alternate facts but what the data actually show. In this particular study, one of the arguments against sanctuary policies is not found to be supported by the evidence so even though it makes for a compelling soundbite, to say that crime is worse in sanctuary localities the data says quite the opposite. We live in a time when alternative facts are now a -- something to be taken seriously. So even though I hope that this data can conform the debate, I fear that in this particular policy debate people will fall back into their deeply held positions. I've been speaking with Tom Wong a professor at UC San Diego. You can read the results of the study at the Center for American progress website.

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.