‘Sanctuary’ Cities Debate Continues
President Donald Trump made cracking down on undocumented individuals a focus of his campaign. On January 25, 2017, he delivered on his promise by signing the “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” Executive Order, directing the federal government to withhold federal funding from states and localities with “sanctuary” policies. Close to 300 law professors have contended that this part of the E.O. is likely unconstitutional under the Tenth Amendment, among other laws. Additionally, mayors of sanctuary jurisdictions, including Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, have vowed to fight this directive in court, arguing that, contrary to Trump’s stated goals, sanctuary policies actually make jurisdictions safer, not “less safe.” Opponents of the E.O. cite studies to support this argument.
Since the E.O. was issued, there have been reports that sanctuary jurisdictions have been targeted for raids. The Trump Administration also released its first weekly “shame and blame” report listing jurisdictions that do not comply with detainers or have policies of non-cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Most recently, on March 27, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that Department of Justice grants would be withheld from sanctuary localities and that he might even claw back funds retroactively in part because “[c]ountless Americans would be alive today . . . if these policies of sanctuary cities were ended.”
California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida, and Massachusetts are the states with the most to lose as they receive amount the largest grants for policing and economic development. Boston Mayor Martin Walsh reacted to Sessions’ statement, saying the “threat of cutting federal funding from cities across the country that aim to foster trusting relationships between their law enforcement and the immigrant community is irresponsible and destructive.” New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued guidance on how jurisdictions could maintain sanctuary policies without violating the Trump E.O. But sanctuary jurisdictions are walking a fine line as the Trump Administration tries to enforce compliance with its policies. In response, immigration advocates in New York City are asking the legislature to decriminalize certain low-level nonviolent offenses, such as subway turnstile jumping, so that undocumented immigrants would not be exposed to detainer and deportation on the basis of something that minor.
Meanwhile, ICE has issued a new Immigration Detainer Form that makes it easier for ICE to demand notification from local law enforcement authorities before a potential deportee is released and to detain such individuals for up to 48 hours so that ICE can take them into custody. Many sanctuary jurisdictions are particularly hesitant to hold individuals beyond their scheduled release times.