Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed Thursday to fight President Trump’s executive order targeting “sanctuary cities,” including legal challenges and using taxpayer funds to provide lawyers to illegal immigrants.
America’s second-largest city is among more than 300 jurisdictions across the county that have “sanctuary” policies intended to thwart federal immigration enforcement. Garcetti suggested that cutting off federal funds to his city — as Trump directed the Department of Homeland Security to explore — would violate the Constitution.
“That’s what this country was founded on, on local sovereignty, the idea that we can make decisions about what’s best for our economies, best for our streets.”
“Well, we have something called the United States Constitution, which says very clearly — also to the Obama administration in a court decision last year — that the federal government can’t put a financial gun to the head of local governments,” Garcetti said on CNN. “That’s what this country was founded on, on local sovereignty, the idea that we can make decisions about what’s best for our economies, best for our streets.”
A spokesman for Garcetti told LifeZette that the mayor was referring to a high court ruling in 2013, not last year, striking down part of the Affordable Care Act. The court ruled that the federal government could not threaten to withhold existing Medicaid funding from states that refused to expand their programs.
Dale Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of the Immigration Reform Law Institute, told LifeZette that Trump should be on firm ground as long as the federal funds in question relate directly to immigration and law enforcement. He said Trump would be in a shakier position if he tried to withhold money for unrelated purposes, such as Medicare.
“I don’t believe that President Trump could cut off all funding,” he said, before adding that the president “certainly within the purview of pulling those grants” awarded by the Department of Homeland Security.
Wilcox noted that the courts have allowed the federal government to tie funding to requirements that states comply with certain conditions, such as raising their drinking ages and lowering their speed limits.
But Garcetti said he did not want to redirect his police force to aid federal immigration enforcement “because of an ideological wish of anyone in the White House.”
He also reiterated his commitment to offer free, taxpayer-funded legal aid for illegal immigrants fighting deportation.
“Here in Los Angeles, we’re looking at what we can do to continue to protect our economy, make our streets safe, and to make sure that our families are united,” he said.
Joseph Guzzardi, a spokesman for Californians for Population Stabilization, said that is a badly misguided approach that hurts the city’s law-abiding residents.
“If only Mayor Garcetti had as much interest in working on behalf of legal residents of Los Angeles … it would be a refreshing thing,” he said.
Guzzardi said Garcetti and like-minded public officials are “throwing out as much smoke that they can possibly throw out to try to intimidate the federal government, and I guess fire up their supporters.”