President Trump has a major problem with sanctuary cities, as does the Justice Department. The entire concept of a sanctuary city goes against the president's strict stance on undocumented immigrants, and his administration is getting more serious about forcing big cities to comply with federal immigration law. On Friday, the Justice Department threatened to cut off federal funds from specific sanctuary cities if they don't prove they've stopped protecting undocumented immigrants, NPR reported.
If you're unsure what a sanctuary city actually is, all it means is that the city's police doesn't detain undocumented immigrants and the local government doesn't turn them over to federal authorities simply because they're undocumented.
Trump centered his campaign around building a wall and keeping undocumented immigrants (particularly from Mexico) out of the U.S., so cities that vow not to seek out unauthorized residents or help deport ones who haven't broken the law are in direct opposition with one of the administration's main goals.
Right after taking office, President Trump signed an executive order explicitly saying sanctuary cities violate federal law, claiming they "have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic." The order also said jurisdictions that don't comply with federal law won't receive federal funds.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions supports Trump's immigration policies and defended the recent deportation of a 23-year-old man protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Sessions told Fox News, "Everybody in the country illegally is subject to being deported, so people come here and they stay here a few years and somehow they think they are not subject to being deported — well, they are."
Now, the Justice Department, under Session's leadership, is ramping up its enforcement of federal immigration law by threatening to take away funds from specific sanctuary cities.
According to The New York Times, Acting Assistant Attorney General Alan Hanson told eight cities they have to prove their compliance with federal law, writing, "Failure to comply with this condition could result in the withholding of grant funds, suspension or termination of the grant, ineligibility for future O.J.P. grants or subgrants, or other action, as appropriate."
The letter was sent to Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Miami, Milwaukee, New York, and Sacramento, according to NPR. Some of the cities, including New York, could lose millions of dollars in grant money, The New York Times reports, but overall none of them would lose a huge chunk of their city budgets if they fail to comply.
It's unlikely the eight cities Hanson called out will just give in, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to fight any attempts to withhold money from the city in court.