Trump threatens cities known to harbour undocumented migrants

New York City fights back as US president threatens to pull federal money from so-called 'sanctuary' cities.

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    People participate in a 2017 protest against US President Donald Trump's immigration policy in New York City, which on Thursday pledged to take the Trump administration to court for withholding federal funds calling the move "unconstitutional" [File: Stephanie Keith/Reuters]
    People participate in a 2017 protest against US President Donald Trump's immigration policy in New York City, which on Thursday pledged to take the Trump administration to court for withholding federal funds calling the move "unconstitutional" [File: Stephanie Keith/Reuters]

    United States President Donald Trump on Thursday said he will pull funds from so-called "sanctuary" cities and states that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. His announcement on Twitter comes days after a US court ruled in favour of the Trump administration blocking federal law enforcement funding to "sanctuary" jurisdictions.

    Trump has taken a tough stance on immigration during his tenure in office, passing a series of laws and battling in courts against Democratic-led "sanctuary" cities that uphold certain rights of undocumented immigrants.

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    Many of those city governments, including New York City's, have fought back, saying it is within their right to limit local law enforcement cooperation with federal US immigration officials. The cities further claim that Trump's measures discourage immigrants from reporting a crime to local law enforcement because they fear deportation.

    “The Federal Court’s decision doesn’t change our laws or our policies,” Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigration Affairs, told Al Jazeera. 

    “We have always been and will always be the ultimate city of immigrants. We centre the public safety of all New Yorkers in the decisions that we make. That is what we’re advancing and is what we’re concerned with, and clearly, we’re getting something right by being the safest big city in America." 

    Echoing that sentiment, in a news conference on Thursday New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said it is "unconstitutional" for the federal government to withhold security funding for a locality based on a policy disagreement, adding: “We'll see them in court.”

    Trump, who is seeking re-election on November 3, has previously attempted to slash law enforcement funds to cities and states that do not comply with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE.  His efforts continue to be challenged in courts. 

    Last week, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled in favour of his administration, stating that the federal funding cuts were valid. However, three other federal appeals courts have ruled against Trump blocking funds. Those decisions could eventually be appealed to the US Supreme Court.

    On Thursday, President Trump tweeted: "As per recent Federal Court ruling, the Federal Government will be withholding funds from Sanctuary Cities. They should change their status and go non-Sanctuary. Do not protect criminals!"

    Trump has been critical of "sanctuary" cities and states refusing to hold in local jails undocumented immigrants past their scheduled release dates so ICE officials could process them for deportation. Officials in "sanctuary" jurisdictions say that honouring such a "detainer" request would mean holding people without a constitutionally valid reason.

    "No surprise that Trump continues to undermine the rule of law with every tweet he fires off,” Tom Jawetz, Vice President for Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress, told Al Jazeera. 

    “With one federal court win under his belt, Trump appears poised to ignore the multiple federal courts that previously decided it would be unlawful for the Department of Justice to deny these important law enforcement funds to local jurisdictions," Jawetz added. 

    The 2nd Circuit overturned a lower court's decision directing the release of federal funds to New York City as well as the states of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington. Three other courts in Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco have upheld injunctions barring enforcement of at least some of the administration's conditions on the funds.

    On top of Trump's funding threats, the administration is upping its battles against "sanctuary" cities, filing lawsuits and issuing subpoenas in what US Attorney General William Barr called part of a "significant escalation" in the fight against uncooperative jurisdictions.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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