Sanctuary cities like San Francisco, Philadelphia, and New York City will soon have to choose between harboring illegal immigrants and continuing to receive federal grant money. Under new Justice Department rules, a determined president, and a vigorous attorney general, the days of defying federal immigration authorities without consequence are coming to an end.
The rules were scheduled to go into effect next year, regardless of the outcome of the election, though we can speculate on how interested Hillary Clinton would have been to enforce it. Rep. John Culberson, the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science says that the Department of Justice told offending jurisdictions that they would be ineligible for grants in 2017 if they did not come into compliance with federal law.
President-elect Donald Trump’s likely attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, has said that he would like to see sanctuary cities stripped of their funding, if not prosecuted. That will fall under his purview as AG, thanks to the rules Culberson helped put in place. And since Sessions and Trump are aligned on illegal immigration, it’s hard to imagine any other scenario unfolding.
Many Americans learned of these sanctuary cities last year when a woman named Kate Steinle was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco. It turned out that her murderer had previously been in city lockup, subject to deportation. San Francisco officials refused to turn him over to ICE and subsequently allowed him to go free.
Trump mentioned Steinle frequently on the campaign trail, contrasting the tragedy with the rosy picture of DREAMers put forward by Obama and Clinton.
Politicians and police officials in the controversial cities say that the sanctuary policies are there for public safety purposes. If illegal immigrants are terrified of being deported, they say, they won’t cooperate with the cops on criminal matters. Critics of the policies, however, say that sanctuary cities do not have the right to accept federal funds and defy federal law at the same time.
Mayors like NYC’s Bill de Blasio and Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel have vowed to fight the Trump administration when it comes to illegal immigrants. We’ll see if their voters appreciate them choosing non-citizens over federal monies.