In a move sure to spark fire and fury across the coasts of America, “sanctuary cities” must now start thinking about the future of their federal funding. Despite numerous legal challenges, President Trump’s plan to withhold money from states that don’t cooperate with the immigration authorities has won a small but important victory.
The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan has decided to overturn a lower court’s earlier ruling paving the way for, potentially, a much larger rollout. It’s time for lawmakers and law enforcement to figure out how much the protection of illegal immigrant criminals means to them in dollars and cents.
Beginning in 2017 when the administration chose to deny Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Washington, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Rhode Island a share of grants from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (worth $250 million annually), the order was challenged. Perhaps not so surprisingly, injunctions were granted to the challengers in various courts against some or all of the conditions.
When former Attorney General Jeff Sessions set the denial of grants in motion, he said:
“So-called ‘sanctuary’ policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes.”
It’s an oft-repeated mantra by those who oppose the concept of sanctuary cities that if a person breaks the law of the land, they don’t deserve to be on the land. While some may claim this is a reasonable position to take, it has been challenged as a “racist” and “damaging” viewpoint because illegal migrants may be too frightened to approach law enforcement to report crimes. However, the conditions attached to the grant money only relate to those who are already locked away.
Cost of Business
The Edward Byrne grant money is a drop in the ocean of federal funding to law enforcement around the country. But it signifies something on a much grander scale. This court win for the Trump administration doesn’t just give the president a few more column inches on a topic that is red meat to his base, but it also puts sanctuary cities on warning.
If Trump can win in one court, he can win in another, and another. He may be challenged repeatedly, but the U.S. Supreme Court has noted many times that when it comes to immigration and the states, the federal government has broad powers. Will sanctuary cities tighten the belt buckle and suffer the losses in the name of political ideology, or will they decide that a well-funded system is better for maintaining their own tenuous grip on power? Either way, this court ruling was the canary in the coal mine, and there’s no turning back.
Read more from Mark Angelides.