‘Sanctuary City’ Funding Threat Is All About Intimidating Immigrant Communities

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A Misguided and Empty Gesture Against Something That’s Not Even Defined. It’s Payback Time for Trump.

A federal judge this week has temporarily blocked a Trump executive order that would deny federal funds to localities that claim to be “Sanctuary Cities.”

Proclaiming that Trump had overstepped his executive powers, Judge William H. Orrick of the US District Court in San Francisco cited the Trump administration’s own deeds: Attorney General Jeff Session’s recent announcement to deny federal law enforcement grants to nine cities or counties deemed not sufficiently cooperative with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE). The nine include Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Miami, Chicago (and Cook County), Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York City and the entire state of California. (Do you see “blue” on the horizon?)

Dictionary. “Redneck.” Jeff Sessions.

Sessions claimed that these jurisdictions were “crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime,” a laughable assertion with a Trumpian lack of evidence (we’ll get to that).

Reacting to the consequences of the attorney general’s decree, US Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) had this to say to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Cutting funding that helps pay for lifesaving equipment and training for Philadelphia police officers makes no sense and will only make our communities less safe.

Trump should spend less time threatening funding for law enforcement officers and more time actually fixing our immigration system by securing our borders and providing a fair pathway to citizenship for immigrants.

The DOJ awarded Philadelphia with a $26 million grant in FY2015, the last year statistics were available. The money paid for HIV counseling and testing, afterschool snacks, analysis of narcotics evidence, services for neglected or abused youth and the testing of DNA samples.

What Is a Sanctuary City?

Trump’s Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly recently admitted that the administration has had a hard time defining a Sanctuary City. The whole idea of targeting certain locales with funding threats rankles city officials such as LA Police Chief Robert Beck, who vigorously asserts that Los Angeles is in compliance with the law.

The law in question, a 1996 measure cited by Sessions that requires cities and localities to provide immigration-related information (such as fingerprints) to the federal government, is not contentious; jurisdictions routinely comply.

No Warrant, No Probable Cause, No Dice

Here is where the separation occurs. Local cops arrest a dark-skinned man with an accent and charge him with whatever crime he is suspected of committing. Fingerprints and a mugshot are sent to ICE. Local justice takes its course, and either the suspect is not charged or bail is set and paid. ICE routinely issues a “detainer” request, but unless it is accompanied by a warrant based on probable cause, so-called Sanctuary Cities will release that suspect regardless of his or her immigration status. After all, immigration enforcement is a federal duty.

Political agendas aside, there are practical considerations in play here. Having local cops “deputized” as ICE enforcers “makes it harder for police to work with undocumented communities and discourages victims and witnesses from reporting crimes.” There’s also a financial aspect: “ICE does not always quickly and entirely reimburse local governments for the cost of detaining people for longer periods.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra puts it best:

Fear-mongering and falsehoods will not intimidate our state into compromising our values. Federal threats to take away resources from law enforcement or our people in an attempt to bully states and localities into carrying out the new administration’s unsound deportation plan are reckless and jeopardize public safety.

But What About Crime?

I’m very much opposed to sanctuary cities. They breed crime. There’s [sic] a lot of problems.

That was Donald Trump in an interview with fellow “ladies man” Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, February 5, 2017. But is it true? I examined two fact-checking reports: The Washington Post Fact Checker and FactCheck.org. Please click on the links for more details.

The Washington Post Fact Checker reported on several primarily university studies of hundred of jurisdictions claiming to be Sanctuary Cities. It awarded “Three Pinocchios” with this conclusion:

These studies found no statistically significant impact of sanctuary policies on crime…Sanctuary jurisdictions release inmates after their criminal case is complete, and extensive research shows noncitizens are not more prone to criminality than US-born citizens.


We find no statistically discernible difference in violent crime rate, rape or property crime across the cities. Our findings find evidence that sanctuary policies have no effect on crime rates, despite narratives to the contrary.

Most of us didn’t believe him anyway.




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Andrew Goutman

Andrew Goutman is the editor of Enter, Stage Left.

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