Last month, a U.S. District Court Judge ruled that President Trump’s January executive order directing the Department of Justice to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities could not be enforced. The ruling, which was seen even by liberal court-watchers as an exercise in judicial activism, inspired Attorney General Jeff Sessions to work up a new memo that outlines the DOJ’s strategy going forward. The memo, which narrowly defines sanctuary cities as those that refuse to give citizenship information to federal authorities, could be the first step in the administration’s plan to get these cities into compliance with the law.
“After consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, I have determined that, for purposes of enforcing the executive order, the term ‘sanctuary jurisdiction’ will refer only to jurisdictions that ‘willfully refuse to comply,’” with U.S. law regarding immigration, said the memo.
Under the statute, cities are forbidden from placing restrictions on government officials which would prevent them from “sending information regarding the citizenship or immigration status of any individual” to federal immigration authorities.
It remains to be seen if the chief problem of sanctuary cities – that they don’t honor federal detainer requests – will fall under the statute as defined by the Department of Justice, but many immigration experts believe that it will. Even if it doesn’t, very few cities have the financial resources to take the risk. The targeted grant money will come directly out of federal funding from the DOJ, which is almost entirely geared towards law enforcement. What are these cities going to do? Cut a third of their police force so they can go on flaunting federal immigration law? Pass up that fancy new jail so they can keep harboring illegal immigrant criminals? Let’s see what the voters think of that choice.
Will the courts support the government’s efforts to rip federal funding away from these defiant cities? Judging by what we’ve seen so far, there’s really no telling. HOWEVER, the DOJ memo also stated that in the future, grants would be directly contingent on a city’s compliance with immigration law. And if these cities accept that agreement, there’s no more gray area. So either way, the age of illegal immigrant sanctuaries will soon be behind us. Perhaps there will be a handful of blue state stragglers, but 300+ cities around the country? No way, Jose.