Trump Budget Dramatically Expands Definition Of Sanctuary Cities

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent
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After narrowing the definition of a sanctuary city recently, the White House broadens the definition in its new budget proposal, meaning that more than 100 jurisdictions would be at risk of losing federal grant money.

Trump’s executive order stripping certain federal grants from sanctuary cities that was temporarily blocked by a federal judge pertained to statute 8 USC 1373, which forbids local officials from restricting information about an individual’s immigration status from the federal government.

Conservative pundits and politicians, however, typically have a much broader definition of a sanctuary city: a jurisdiction that refuses to comply with immigration detainers. A document released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in March identified 118 jurisdictions that limit compliance with these detainers. The detainer requests ask agencies to hold individuals for up to 48 hours so that ICE officers can pick them up, or to let ICE know when the detainee is being released.

The number of jurisdictions in non-compliance with 8 USC 1373 is likely very small. The Department of Justice sent a letter to just nine jurisdictions in April asking them to confirm that they are in compliance. The DOJ held a meeting with lawyers that month to let them know that refusing to comply with detainers doesn’t put them at risk of losing funding. Liberal mayors rejoiced at this interpretation.

The Trump budget redefines the law to include jurisdictions that don’t comply with an immigration detainer. This budget was introduced the same day that Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a memo saying that sanctuary cities aren’t those that refuse to comply with detainers in respect to Trump’s executive order. The liberal group America’s Progress pegged the move as a “sneak attack.”

The budget also requires agencies to share more than just the immigration status of an individual. It would now include the nationality, citizenship, immigration status, removability, scheduled date and time, home address, work address, or contact information of someone in custody or suspected of violating the law.

If Congress adopts the budget — which multiple Republican have called “dead on arrival” — sanctuary jurisdictions could lose DHS and DOJ grants. The provision would be a win for Trump’s hardline immigration agenda in a budget that funds only 60 miles of new border walling and allocates money for the resettlement of 50,000 refugees.

This reinterpretation could also be redundant if Congress passes the Davis-Oliver Act — a bill with a similar definition of sanctuary city that applies the same grant restrictions. The House Judiciary Committee approved the Davis-Oliver Act Wednesday, and the White House supports its passage.