The Stream

The cost of sanctuary

US ‘sanctuary’ cities square off with Trump administration over immigration.

Tensions are building in the United States between the federal government and major urban centres as the Trump administration threatens to punish cities refusing to turn over undocumented immigrants for deportation.

So-called “sanctuary cities” are preparing for legal battle just days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the country’s top law enforcement official, announced federal funds would be cut to cities that fail to assist federal immigration agents.

The Department of Justice doles out about $4 billion in grants to cities and counties annually, supporting local programmes to address human trafficking, sexual assault, gang violence, mental health and gun crimes. Sessions says much of that could dry up if local police fail to cooperate with federal immigration agents seeking the arrest of undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes.

The threat follows an Executive Order signed by President Donald Trump during his first week in office, accusing “sanctuary jurisdictions” of willfully violating federal law and causing “immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic”. The move has support from anti-immigration groups, as well as local officials like county commissioners in Miami-Dade, Florida, who say the United States is a law-abiding country, and federal funds are needed to help their communities’ most vulnerable populations.

But mayors from “sanctuary jurisdictions” say the Trump administration is trying to hold them hostage. The cities of San Francisco, California, and Seattle, Washington, are suing the administration, accusing it of violating the Constitution. Others, including Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and New York, New York, say they will go to court if their funds are threatened.

Even the country’s largest police union, which emphatically endorsed Trump, has expressed concern that cuts to local law enforcement funding could compromise their ability to keep communities safe.

On a grassroots level, communities are crowdfunding support for legal action, while some churches have turned into actual sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants concerned about deportation.

We discuss the tension between federal and local governments, and how communities are being impacted by the Trump administration’s threat to crackdown on sanctuary cities.

In this episode of The Stream, we’ll speak with:

Jessica Vaughan @JessicaV_CIS
Director of Policy Studies, Center for Immigration Studies

Helen Gym @HelenGymAtLarge
Councilwoman-at-large, Philadelphia City Council

Yesenia Mata @matay983
Political Director, Dream Action Coalition

Michael A. Hernández @HernandezMA5
Senior Advisor and Director of Communications, Office of Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez

Jeanette Vizguerra 
Community leader

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