Defunding Sanctuary Cities

What you heard:

President Trump signed an executive order that, among other awful things, withholds federal grant dollars from sanctuary cities.

What it is:

Read all about executive orders here.

In this instance, other awful things includes bringing back the Secure Communities Program, which in its first iteration was meant to “identify criminal aliens”, but basically allowed local law enforcement to racially profile then detain and deport undocumented peoples, even if they were not convicted of any crime. After many court decisions found parts of SCP in violation of the Constitution, the program was discontinued in 2014. Sorry, I know this isn’t part of what you heard today, but it’s important and I wanted you to know about it anyways!

Sanctuary cities are loosely defined as those that protect their undocumented residents by not enforcing federal immigration laws. This policy can be either codified in law or unofficial, and exact wording varies from city to city. However, most sanctuary city laws are similar in that they prohibit city employees (incl. police officers) from inquiring about a person’s immigration status or detaining a person based on immigration status. The Center for Immigration Studies estimates that there are approximately 300 sanctuary cities in the US.

What it means:

Like many of this administration’s first actions, this e-order is a whole lot of talk and not a lot of specific action. However, its broad language means that the federal government is free to decide which funding – and how much of it – is cut off from sanctuary cities.

It also means (and I’m just spitballing here) that the federal administration, besides being full of horrible people who would deny safety and security to peoples born in war-torn or poverty-ravaged nations, is intent on controlling blue cities as best they can. So much for the party of small government.

What could happen:

Before you start donating to the Fund for Keeping My Liberal Government’s Lights On, take heart! There’s strong Supreme Court precedent that basically holds that the federal government can only strip funding related to the issue at hand – so they can’t, say, take away federal infrastructure dollars to make a city comply with federal immigration laws.

On the other hand, it probably isn’t a bad idea to start stashing away $$$ for a future F4KMLGLO, because it’s reasonable to assume that this administration will try to stretch that “funding related to the issue” thing as far as they can.

It’s also a safe bet that there will be a lot of governments and immigrant rights groups taking the federal government to court. The California state legislature already has former US Attorney General Eric Holder on retainer (admit it, you’d be disappointed if CA ever did anything less than the MOST), and plans to make the case that the e-order in question violates the 10th Amendment (history refresh: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”). The same argument has been successful in court before on the grounds that the federal government can’t compel local authorities to enforce federal laws.

TL;DR: Buckle up, kids, because we’re in for some intense courtroom showdowns.


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