President Trump signed an executive order in late January authorizing the defunding of sanctuary cities, but the White House is unclear about how this will be implemented.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement published a list Monday of 118 jurisdictions that they view as having policies which limit cooperation with federal immigration detainers. However, this might not mean necessarily that these jurisdictions will be ineligible to receive federal grants.
The executive order President Trump signed focused on a law related to localities restricting information about the immigration status of individuals from the federal government. ICE did highlight Monday that Cook County, Ill., home to Chicago, and Philadelphia both release criminals from prison without ICE being notified.
According to Ian Smith, an attorney with the Immigration Reform Law Institute, that would put these jurisdictions in violation of 8 U.S.C. 1373, the law specifically named in Trump’s executive order.
However, the Jan. 25 executive order also gives the Secretary of Homeland Security the ability to designate, at his discretion, places as sanctuary jurisdictions. Although in February Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told a police chief he had “no clue” what constitutes a sanctuary jurisdiction.
A department spokesman told The Daily Caller Tuesday, “DHS continues to evaluate the appropriate criteria for such designation.”
The executive order also vaguely states that the attorney general “shall take appropriate enforcement action against any entity that violates 8 U.S.C. 1373, or which has in effect a statute, policy, or practice that prevents or hinders the enforcement of federal law.” The Department of Justice declined to comment Tuesday about what this “appropriate enforcement action” exactly entails.
Local leaders have felt out in the dark regarding this sanctuary city defunding policy. Members of the United States Conference of Mayors held a “Day of Immigration Action” Tuesday both in celebration of the contribution of immigrants in their city and due to their “serious concerns” with the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told reporters on a conference call about the planned event that he isn’t sure about the timeline with which the Trump administration will go forward with defunding sanctuary cities. “We’ve been trying to find out and we haven’t been able to,” Garcetti said. The Los Angeles mayor pointed to Secretary Kelly’s confusion about sanctuary jurisdictions to illustrate the confusion.
The United States Conference of Mayors is meeting with Kelly next week and an official with the group said sanctuary cities “will be on the agenda.”
BuzzFeed reported in February that it is also unclear how the Trump administration can go ahead with funding as much of that is in the control of Congress. The president could likely remove law enforcement grants. However, as the sanctuary defunding pitch is based on public safety, it is unclear how well that would fair politically.
There will also likely be legal battles between these cities and the federal government if defunding were to take place. Both Los Angeles and New York City have policies that restrict cooperation with ICE detainers, and the mayors of both cities insist they are within their legal rights to do so. These mayors and others have said remaining sanctuaries is for public safety reasons as it allows more cooperation between local police and community members.
President Trump, on the other hand, has said sanctuary cities “breed crime.” The list ICE released Monday of declined detainers included several individuals charged with sex crimes and assault.