The election of immigration hard-liner President Donald Trump appears to have generated an increase in “sanctuary” jurisdictions — at least temporarily.
The Ohio Jobs and Justice PAC on Tuesday updated a running list of sanctuary jurisdictions. Since Trump issued his executive order in January reformulating immigration policy and targeting sanctuary jurisdictions, about 40 cities and counties have adopted illegal immigrant-friendly policies. A handful of jurisdictions — most prominently, Miami-Dade County — have moved to scrap sanctuary polices.
“The trend is, I think, until he actually starts putting the squeeze to them, I suspect I’ll be adding more to the list every week.”
“The trend is, I think, until he actually starts putting the squeeze to them, I suspect I’ll be adding more to the list every week,” said Ohio Jobs and Justice PAC founder Steve Salvi, who has been tracking sanctuary cities since 2006. “The bigger cities are doubling down, and it’s really become a hot political issue. It’s really about the next election.”
Salvi uses a much broader definition of sanctuary cities than other organizations. He includes jurisdictions that express sentiment in favor of illegal immigrants even if they are not attached to actual policy, and governments that have been identified in news reports as “informal” sanctuary jurisdictions. He said that is valid because it identifies governments that are likely to take concrete action in the near future.
At the same time, Salvi said, he does not include some cities listed in a report by the Center for Immigration Studies tracking jurisdictions that turn down requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities to hold illegal immigrants targeted for deportation. Absent some other indication of adopting a sanctuary policy, he said, he did not include places that had rejected only one detainer.
Trump’s executive order instructed the Department of Homeland Security to identify funding sources that could be cut off to cities and counties that refuse to cooperate with ICE. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly followed that up last month with specific guidance on the issue.
A report last week by the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress suggested that sanctuary jurisdictions risk losing a combined $870 million in federal funding from five major programs.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday pointed to a Harvard-Harris poll conducted last month indicating that 80 percent of voters agree that local officials should have to refer illegal immigrants to federal authorities.
“The president has been very clear that we’re not going to use federal taxpayer dollars that support cities that support services to people that are here in this country illegally,” he said. “But I think at the end of the day, this is a question for mayors and council members at the local level who have to answer to the people that elected them.”
Salvi said some counties and cities recently have begun declaring themselves “welcoming” communities.
“All they’re trying to do is avoid the word ‘sanctuary,'” he said.
It remains to be seen how many jurisdictions will keep their sanctuary policies if it means they actually start losing federal funds. Joseph Guzzardi, a spokesman for Californians for Population Stabilization, said he would have thought Trump’s executive order would have deterred some sanctuary jurisdictions.
“It’s very surprising to me in one sense that more cities have decided to adopt that policy,” he said. “I would wait to see what happens with the administration … In other words, why lead with your chin?”
Guzzardi questioned whom political leaders are playing to with sanctuary policies. He said there is “not a shred of evidence” to support the oft-repeated contention that cooperating with ICE will make illegal immigrants less likely to report crimes.
He said he hopes the Trump administration follows through on its threats to cut off federal funds. He said it would back leaders of sanctuary jurisdictions into a corner.
“They would have to scramble around to save face by changing their policies or face the wrath of the legal citizens and legal permanent residents of those communities,” he said.
William Gheen, founder of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, said Trump is undermining his message to sanctuary jurisdictions by failing to honor his campaign promise to revoke his predecessor’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program granting work permits to illegal immigrants brought to America as children. His group has pledged to rescind its endorsement of Trump if the president does not revoke the program by April 17.
“Right now, a lot of illegal immigrants do not believe they are gong to have to leave the country,” he said. “As long as DACA’s there, it sends a mixed message.”
Salvi, who created the sanctuary jurisdiction list, predicted most local governments eventually will reverse course under duress.
“I don’t think that’s going to last too long,” he said. “That’s a lot of brave talk. I don’t think they think he’s actually going to do it.”