‘Sanctuary’ Cities in the Crosshairs

Trump administration can punish defiant jurisdictions with grant cuts, lawsuits

by Brendan Kirby | Updated 15 Nov 2016 at 7:28 AM

President-Elect Donald Trump’s upset victory last week did nothing to show the light to renegade cities and counties that have refused to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Since the election, officials in Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia, and elsewhere have reiterated their opposition to federal law. That position sets them on a collision course with the incoming Trump administration. Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, said the federal government doles out hundreds of millions of dollars each year in law enforcement grants.

“Definitely some of [the grant money] under the control of the Department of Justice … That’s the first obvious funding that should be denied sanctuary cities.”

“Definitely some of it is under the control of the Department of Justice … That’s the first obvious funding that should be denied sanctuary cities,” she said.

Officials in some of America’s largest so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions expressed defiance in the wake of Trump’s win.

“I want to assure all of our families that Chicago is and will remain a sanctuary city,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said during a news conference Monday. “Chicago has been a city of immigrants since it was founded. We have always welcomed people of all faiths and backgrounds, and while the administration will change, our values and our commitment to inclusion will not.”

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney told Philly.com that his city should be described as a “Fourth Amendment city,” not a sanctuary city.

“We respect and live up to the Fourth Amendment, which means you can’t be held against your will without a warrant from the court signed by a judge,” he said. “So yeah, we will continue to be a Fourth Amendment city abiding by the Constitution.”

Sanctuary Cities & Justice Department Grants
JurisdictionOJP* Grants
Connecticut$69.3 million
California$132.4 million
Orleans Parish (La.)$4.7 million
New York$60.1 million
Philadelphia%16.5 million
Cook County (Ill.)$6 million
Chicago$28.5 million
Miami-Dade County$10.8 million
Milwaukee$7.5 million
Clark County (Nev.)$6.3 million
*Office of Justice Programs
Source: DOJ Inspector General

Kenney offers a misleading description of his own policy, however. His executive order, issued in April 2014, limits cooperation with federal immigration authorities placing holds on illegal immigrants in city custody. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement data, the city denied 171 so-called detainers — including for 106 people with prior criminal records — from Jan. 1, 2014, through Sept. 30, 2015.

ICE has identified roughly 300 jurisdictions with policies that impede immigration enforcement, according to a report in August by the Center for Immigration Studies. During the 19-month period ending in September 2015, those jurisdictions rejected more than 17,000 detainers; 11,800, or 68 percent, were for people with prior records.

Those cities, counties, and states already were in danger of losing federal funds thanks to efforts by Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), who used his perch as chairman of the House subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Justice Department to pressure the agency to crack down on those policies. Jurisdictions that do not comply will not be eligible for funding next year under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant and State Criminal Alien Assistance programs.

Law enforcement grants by the Office of Justice Programs totaled more than $540 million during the last fiscal year, according to a May report by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General.

Immigration Detainers Ignored
Jurisdiction1/1/2014-9/30/2015
Santa Clara (CA)1856
Los Angeles1492
Queens (NY)1103
Ventura (CA)1049
Alameda (CA)848
San Diego796
Miami-Dade771
Santa Barbara (CA)586
Fresno (CA)510
Denver499
Total18 646
Source: Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Trump spoke passionately during the campaign about taking on sanctuary cities, often highlighting the 2015 shooting death of Kate Steinle, a tourist gunned down in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant who previously had been deported five times. The man, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, had been arrested on an old drug warrant. Rather than hand him over to ICE officials, the city police let him go after the city prosecutor moved to dismiss the drug charge.

Trump’s supporters expect him to take quick action against recalcitrant cities and counties.

"That's a high priority for President-Elect Trump, and I suspect he will put all of his persuasive powers into making that happen," said Joseph Guzzardi, a spokesman for Californians For Population Stabilization. "It's one of the things that helped propel Trump to victory … It just doesn't make a shred of sense," he said of sanctuary cities' policies.

Guzzardi said he would have thought  Trump's election would prompt local officials to review their sanctuary status.

"They are in complete defiance of federal law and complete defiance of the mandate of the people," he said.

If not election results, a financial hit could spark those revisions. Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, said the Trump administration also could hit defiant jurisdictions with a loss of grants from the Department of Homeland Security.

What's more, von Spakovsky said, the Trump administration would have the legal high ground to sue sanctuary jurisdictions to force compliance. Failure to cooperate with federal immigration officials is explicitly against the law. And the Constitution reserves immigration matters exclusively to the federal government. It is on that principle that the Supreme Court largely gutted attempts by Arizona and Alabama to fight illegal immigration at the state level.

The Obama administration has threatened to sue over sanctuary policies but has not followed through. If the Trump administration does, it could mean not only fines but jail for local officials under contempt orders if they fail to obey adverse rulings.

"I think that would change their tune pretty quickly," von Spakovsky said.

Von Spakovsky noted that law enforcement agencies routinely honor warrants and holds from other jurisdictions. If someone caught speeding in San Francisco is wanted by police in Boston, the arresting agency will transfer that defendant. If that same speeder is wanted by immigration authorities, San Francisco and many other jurisdictions simply let him go.

"It's almost as if they want people who are here illegally to have more rights than American citizens," he said.

  1. illegal-immigration
  2. immigration
  3. president-elect-trump
  4. sanctuary-cities

Comments are closed.