On Wednesday, Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at cracking down on so-called “sanctuary cities,” which limit cooperation between state and local law enforcement and federal immigration agents. It follows through on his campaign-trail promise to withhold federal dollars from such cities, which might jeopardize support for services including education, health care, and housing for millions of American citizens.According to the executive order, dubbed “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” cities that do not comply with federal immigration enforcement agents “are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary.” It also notes that the director of the Office of Management and Budget will be responsible for obtaining and providing “relevant and responsive information on all Federal grant money that currently is received by any sanctuary jurisdiction.” It is not clear, however, which grants are at jeopardy.
Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at the daily press briefing: “We’re going to strip federal grant money from the sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants. The American people are no longer going to have to be forced to subsidize this disregard for our laws.”
The walking Melting Wax Statue made attacking sanctuary cities a key part of his platform, and yeah, he’s following through. This means that, in those cities, immigrants will actually lose access to many basic rights, including education, health care, and so on. And Trump doesn’t seem to care that this order is, actually, unconstitutional:
Trump’s order, among other things, seeks to force state and local authorities to actively enforce federal statutes. The conservative legal movement has given that part of the order’s foes some powerful legal weapons. A 1997 case, Printz v. United States, says that the federal government may never order local officials to enforce federal law; the famous 2012 Affordable Care Act case, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, says that the government cannot use the threat of large funding cuts to “coerce” states into adopting federally demanded policies. The order seems to implicate both constitutional rules.
On the “coercion” issue, the order in fact is best read as a threat—political and financial––against any local government that does not follow any federal orders in the immigration context. It denounces some unnamed local leaders in non-legal language: “Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States. These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.”
Of course, mayors and other lawmakers are fighting back:
Mayors and lawmakers from around the country assured Trump that they would fight him on the order and refuse to enforce federal immigration laws. The promises of shelter came one after the other on Wednesday and Thursday.
“If people want to live here, they’ll live here. They can use my office. They can use any office in this building,” said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. “I will use all of my power within lawful means to protect all Boston residents—even if that means using City Hall itself as a last resort.”
California Senate Leader Kevin de Leon: “These are spiteful and mean-spirited directives that will only instill fear in the hearts of millions of people who pay taxes, contribute to our economy and our way of life. We will have no part in their implementation.”
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray: “This city will not be bullied by this administration. We believe we have the rule of law and the courts on our side.”
Detroit City Council member Raquel Castañeda Lopez: “We do not stand down to our commitment to being a sanctuary city. We don’t stand down to our commitment to being a welcoming city. We do not stand down to our commitment to welcoming refugees.”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio: “We are going to fight this, and cities and states around the country are going to fight this.”
“The minute any specific action to withhold funding were to occur, that’s when Zach Carter is in court the next hour,” de Blasio said, referring to the city’s corporation counsel.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel: “I want to be clear. We’re gonna stay a sanctuary city.”
And that’s good, but it will also be hard. We all have to be vigilant and fight back against this.
What we don’t need to do is waste time crying crocodile tears over a Nazi getting punched in the face.