What are sanctuary cities, and can they be defunded?

What are sanctuary cities, and can they be defunded?

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday designed to crack down on so-called sanctuary cities -- setting up a showdown with immigration advocates.

The order will "strip federal grant money from the sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants," according to press secretary Sean Spicer.

The order declares that entities labeled "sanctuary jurisdictions" by the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security will be "not eligible" for federal grants, and it directs the Office of Management and Budget to compile federal grant money currently going to sanctuary jurisdictions.

Already, some mayors have made clear they're standing firm. At a news conference just moments after Trump's executive order was announced, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said his city wouldn't budge.

"I haven't read the content of the sanctuary city (order), but I want to make very clear, we are going to stay a sanctuary city. We welcome, just as in the spirit of what Cardinal (Blase) Cupich talked about, 'there is no stranger among us,'" Emanuel said.

But what is a sanctuary city? And can Trump really defund them?

Here's a look at what the term means and its implications in immigration policy under Trump.

What is a sanctuary city?
The term "sanctuary city" is a broad term applied to jurisdictions that have policies in place designed to limit cooperation with or involvement in federal immigration enforcement actions. Cities, counties and some states have a range of informal policies as well as actual laws that qualify as "sanctuary" positions.

Most of the policies center around not cooperating with federal law enforcement on immigration policies. Many of the largest cities in the country have forms of such policies.

In 2015, more than 200 state and local jurisdictions did not honor requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain individuals, ICE Director Sarah Saldaña testified before Congress, and a subset of that group refused to give access to their jails and prisons to ICE.

According to tracking by the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that advocates for restricting immigration and opposes sanctuary policies, roughly 300 sanctuary jurisdictions rejected more than 17,000 detention requests, between January 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015.

The idea for sanctuary cities appears to have sprung out of churches in the 1980s that provide sanctuary to Central Americans fleeing violence at home amid reluctance by the federal government to grant them refugee status. They became popular in more diverse locales to counter what officials there saw as overzealous federal immigration policies, particularly against those arrested for minor, non-violent crimes.

How does it work?
There is no single definition for a sanctuary city.

For example, the Los Angeles Police Department said after November's election that it would continue its policy of not allowing police to stop people solely to establish their immigration status, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"San Francisco is a sanctuary city and will not waiver in its commitment to protect the rights of all its residents," San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee said earlier this month upon announcing an expansion to a city fund to provide legal services to the immigrant community, documented or otherwise.

Chicago has set up a similar fund, as has Los Angeles, and they're under consideration in other major cities, like New York.

"Chicago has in the past been a sanctuary city," Emanuel said in November, according to the Sun-Times. "It always will be a sanctuary city."

Emanuel also referenced Chicago's "Welcoming City Ordinance," a collection of laws similar to others around the country that make clear Chicago will not help investigate the citizenship status of individuals unless mandated by law or a court, will not discriminate issuing city services depending on citizenship and will not cooperate with immigration detentions.

And 12 states and the District of Columbia have laws allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The goal of the constellation of informal and formal policies is generally to protect undocumented immigrants who are not otherwise engaged in criminal activity from being detained or deported.

Who objects to these practices?
Some conservatives have opposed these policies for years, as they have sought tougher immigration laws that crack down on undocumented immigrants living in the US.

Trump made the issue a centerpiece of his campaign, at one time saying he would support a deportation force to round up all the millions of immigrants living in the US illegally. He has since backed off that position, with his surrogates saying his administration will prioritize removing criminals.

As major urban centers tend to be run by Democratic politicians, who support more forgiving immigration policies, many cities have been locked in battles with Republican leaders nationally over the policies.
ICE has also said the policies inhibit their ability to enforce immigration laws.

Opponents of sanctuary cities also often cite cases of crimes perpetrated or allegedly perpetrated by undocumented immigrants.

In one of the most emotionally charged challenges to sanctuary cities, the parents of Kate Steinle, a young woman who was allegedly fatally shot by an undocumented immigrant recently released from jail, attempted to sue San Francisco over its sanctuary city policy. The lawsuit claimed the sheriff and city were partly to blame for her death.

A judge ruled this month, however, dismissing the claim.

Still, Steinle's 2015 murder has been a rallying cry for opponents of sanctuary cities and those who seek tougher immigration policies.

What role does federal money play?
The order appears to apply mostly to future federal grants, though after OMB's review, Spicer explained that the funding identified could be taken away.

While the administration likely can't cut off all federal funding, as much of it is disbursed through Congress, the President could put some pressure on cities this way.

Aside from congressionally provided funds, there are a number of grants administered by federal agencies that could mean big money lost to cities and states.

One such program is the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, administered by the Department of Justice, points out Hans von Spakovsky, a legal and immigration expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation who advocates for policies like those implemented by Trump.

That fund alone allocated $274.9 million in 2016, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the five states with the most allocations were California, at $30.5 million; Texas, at $21.4 million; Florida, with $17.8 million; New York, with $15.6 million; and Illinois, at $10.4 million.

Wouldn't that create a legal issue?
The move, when finalized, will almost certainly generate court challenges.

The courts have held in the past that the federal government can only strip funding that is related to the policy involved -- so it's unlikely to hold up if the administration tried to take away highway funds, for example, according to experts. The courts have also ruled that funding decisions may not be used to "coerce" states into actions.

But something like the JAG program, which supports law enforcement, might be considered germane to the issue.

In South Dakota v. Dole, the Supreme Court ruled in 1987 on Congress using highway funds to enforce a national drinking age, upheld past case law that federal grant restrictions may not pass muster "if they are unrelated 'to the federal interest in particular national projects or programs,'" and most also be to promote "general welfare." That ruling specifically applied to Congress, but would certainly be cited in any litigation over Trump's order.

And in a more recent case brought by conservatives against President Barack Obama's health care law, the Supreme Court held in 2012 that withholding Medicaid funds from states that did not cooperate was "coercion," and thus unconstitutional.

Another case written by a conservative icon, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, is also cited as a possible defense for sanctuary cities. In Printz v. US, a case on gun rights, Scalia wrote, citing case law: "The Federal Government may not compel the States to enact or administer a federal regulatory program."

The matter will likely end up in the courts -- as did many of Obama's immigration executive actions.

"It's a gray area how far the federal government can go in basically engaging in what some might call coercive behavior using federal money as an angle, but that would make for a very spirited, interesting litigation fight, and in the vast majority of these cases, the federal government has won," von Spakovsky said in an interview before the executive orders were issued.

Maya Casillas, 7, joins a protest at Los Angeles City Hall against President Trump's immigration executive orders. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

California 'sanctuary cities' vow to stand firm despite Trump threats of funding cutoff

President Trump’s vow to crack down on “sanctuary cities” that protect immigrants in the U.S. illegally has met with resolve, at least so far, in some California communities.

Details about Trump’s crackdown remain unclear. Trump on Wednesday signed two executive orders designed to begin building a border wall with Mexico, add lockups for detaining immigrants who cross the border illegally, enhance enforcement powers for border agents and strip federal funding to cities that refuse to cooperate with immigration enforcement.

According to a draft document reviewed by The Times, under the new order, the federal government would threaten to withhold funds from cities that limit cooperation with immigration officials.

More than 400 jurisdictions across the country have some sort of sanctuary policy, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and about 40 others in California.

Several smaller towns in Los Angeles County have declared themselves sanctuary cities, and now leaders of those municipalities are wondering how Trump’s orders will affect them.

More than a year ago, Cudahy, a small working-class town southeast of downtown Los Angeles, declared itself a sanctuary city to encourage immigrants without legal status to cooperate with police.

“It was a symbolic gesture to say: You’re here already. You’re free to live your lives, and you can call police,” said City Councilman Cristian Markovich.

Markovich said the policy has no legal teeth because it doesn’t supersede federal law. He said there might be some cooperation with federal authorities, such as police turning over immigrants in the country illegally who commit serious violent crimes.

Markovich said he would oppose any Trump plans to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities.

“We pay our fair share, and that funding should go to the city regardless of whether the city is a sanctuary city or not,” Markovich said.

He said one way the city could be affected would be the withholding of funds from the Community Development Block Grant program, which is used for parks and public housing.

“I’m going to stick to my guns and say this is a good piece of policy for our city,” Markovich said.

In 2006, the 1-square-mile town of Maywood declared itself a sanctuary city.

“It became second nature,” Mayor Pro Tem Eduardo De La Riva said. “It wasn’t a topic of discussion because California became so progressive over the years, it was sort of the norm.

“But ever since Trump entered the national stage and because of his rhetoric, more cities became sanctuary cities and it once again came to the spotlight, and now we’re having to ask, ‘What does it mean to be a sanctuary city?’ ” he said.

De La Riva, who was not on the City Council when Maywood declared itself a sanctuary city, said the city doesn’t plan to abandon the policy.

“We’re going to wait and see what the executive order states, and then we’re going to have a discussion on what that means for Maywood moving forward,” he said. “California is going to fight Trump all the way, and that’s great to have the support from state leadership. I think we’re sending a clear message when you have several of the largest cities also saying we’re going to take a stance.”

Sanctuary policies have become good politics in cities with large Latino populations. But the protections cities afford vary widely.

There is no neat definition of “sanctuary city,” but in general, cities that adopt the designation seek to offer political support or practical protections to people who are in the country illegally.

For some cities, the sanctuary movement consists simply of encouraging people without legal status to get more involved in government. For instance, Huntington Park has never declared itself a sanctuary city but appointed two people without legal status to a city commission, a move that generated national attention.

Other places, such as San Francisco, adopt far-reaching policies, such as taking steps to cut ties with federal immigration officials and refusing to fully cooperate with them. San Francisco declared itself a sanctuary city in 1989, and city officials strengthened the stance in 2013 with its “Due Process for All” ordinance. The law declared that local authorities could not keep immigrants in custody to be handed over to federal immigration officials if they had no violent felonies on their records and did not currently face charges.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank that advocates for restrictions on immigration, said cutting off funding to sanctuary cities was a long time coming.

“Money talks,” she said. “But there probably will be some die-hards who will continue to play chicken on this, and they may face other consequences, such as litigation.”

She said it would behoove Trump to expand the types of funding that could be cut off, possibly to include Department of Homeland Security funding.

Inside Express Coin Laundry in Maywood, clothes whirled inside washers and dryers, while President Trump spun in the minds of some customers at the laundromat.

Among them was Hector Cruz, 25, a Mexican national whose newborn son slept in an infant car seat.

“I'm afraid of immigration raids,” Cruz said, peeking over at his son. “I'm worried of being separated from family.”

What is a sanctuary city? And what happens now?

What is a sanctuary city and how might those cities be affected by Trump’s executive order?

Sanctuary cities offer safe harbor for undocumented immigrants who might otherwise be deported by federal immigration law enforcement officials.  There are over 140 sanctuary jurisdictions -- cities and counties -- across the U.S., including at least 37 cities -- San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles, among others.

President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order that would withhold federal grant money from sanctuary cities.

“Jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply” with federal immigration laws, the order says, “are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the attorney general or the secretary.”

Many mayors, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, said they’d defy the order.

“We’re going to stay a sanctuary city,” Emanuel said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “Wherever you came from, you’re welcome here.”

The mayors of the Bay Area’s three largest cities, Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose, and the City of Berkeley spoke out against President Trump’s executive order on immigration.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf also vowed to take a regional approach to combat the impacts of any threatened cuts in federal funding 

Trump unveils executive orders on immigration, border wall
The order does not specify how much or what kind of funding would be or could be blocked, although White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday that the homeland security secretary would “look at funding streams that are going to those cities and look at how we can defund those streams.”

CBS News’ Carter Evans spoke with Pedro Trujillo, whose undocumented parents brought him to the U.S. when he was 7.

“There’s anxiety going around, here’s a lot of worry ... Are there going to be raids coming our way in the coming months? We don’t know that yet,” Trujillo said 

In 2016, a Justice Department inspector general’s report investigated how much in Justice Department federal grants some sanctuary jurisdictions receive (as of Mar. 2016). Over 60 percent of the funding goes to 10 jurisdictions identified by the report:
  • Connecticut: $69,305,444
  • California $132,409,635
  • Orleans Parish, Louisiana: $4,737,964
  • New York, New York: $60,091,942
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: $16,505,312
  • Cook County, Illinois: $6,018,544
  • Chicago, Illinois: $28,523,222
  • Miami-Dade County, Florida: $10,778,815
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin: $7,539,572
  • Clark County, Nevada: $6,257,951

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