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Members of Congress, Legal Experts, Advocates: Trump Should Keep Hands Off of Funding Protecting Communities

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Donald Trump is at it again — continuing his war on immigrants, this time by announcing that he wants to take away funding protecting communities by making immigrant-friendly jurisdictions ineligible for Department of Justice grants. It’s a heavy-handed, intrusive-government move that many are saying is unconstitutional. Other arguments against the move include:

  • The fact that immigrant-friendly jurisdictions resist ICE detainers for a reason — to protect the relationship between local law enforcement officers and the immigrant community. When that trust is frayed, everyone is less safe.
  • The fact that the vast majority of immigrants are not “bad hombres” and don’t deserve to be deported just because they encountered a police officer; local law enforcement agencies for their part don’t wish to be forced to double as immigration officers.
  • Cities with immigrant-friendly policies are not less safe for having them.
  • Courts have repeatedly ruled that localities cannot be forced to respond to ICE detainers.

Here’s what members of Congress, state officials, legal experts, and advocates have been saying about today’s announcement:

Members of Congress and other officials

DNC Chair Tom Perez:

Local law enforcement know their communities best and the Trump administration is trying to undermine their role by threatening to take away critical funds that make our communities safe and keep criminals off the streets. This administration not only is trying to bully law enforcement and make them ICE agents, but they’re trying to bully immigrant families. This is not who we are as a country. We are a country that must protect families from being torn apart, go after criminals to keep our communities safe, and support our local law enforcement. Today’s actions do none of that.

State officials

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra:

In California, we respect the Constitution and abide by federal law; we expect the federal government to do the same. The Trump Administration should rethink its plan to force state and local governments to do the federal government’s bidding on immigration.

I will continue to work with our federal law enforcement partners for the good and safety of all our people. But it’s a low blow to our brave men and women in uniform to threaten to withhold public safety funding that they have earned unless Donald Trump gets his way on immigration. We will fight to protect those policing resources, just as we will protect all the residents of our state against unconstitutional overreach by our federal government.

California Senate Leader Kevin De León:

The announcement today by Attorney General Jeff Sessions is nothing short of blackmail. When it comes to immigrants and sanctuary counties and cities, the Attorney and the President are stuck on alternative facts.

They are wrong about immigrants and wrong about what makes our communities safer. Data shows that sanctuary counties are not only safer that comparable non-sanctuary jurisdictions but are also better off economically.

Instead of making us safer, the Trump administration is spreading fear and promoting race-based scapegoating. Their gun-to-the-head method to force resistant cities and counties to participate in Trump’s inhumane and counterproductive mass-deportation is unconstitutional and will fail.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman:

Despite what Attorney General Sessions implied this afternoon, state and local governments and law enforcement have broad authority under the Constitution to not participate in federal immigration enforcement.

As my office’s legal guidance makes clear, President Trump lacks the constitutional authority to broadly cut off funding to states and cities just because they have lawfully acted to protect immigrant families.

Legal and policy experts

Nearly 300 Legal Experts: Attorney General Sessions Wrong on “Sanctuary” Cities:

Nearly 300 constitutional, immigration, administrative, and international law professors and scholars recently provided legal analysis concluding this administration’s threat to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities is unconstitutional under the spending clause and Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Many of the underlying legal arguments cited today by the Attorney General are in fact, false, including the Attorney General’s claim that sanctuary policies violate federal law, that local jurisdictions are legally obligated to respond to federal detainer requests, and that the U.S. Department of Justice may legally withhold or terminate grants to sanctuary jurisdictions.

As stated in the law professor letter:

  • “’[S]anctuary’ policies that direct local law enforcement agencies to refrain from collecting immigration information or to decline detainers requesting prolonged detention do not violate 8 U.S.C. § 1373.”
  • “Congress nor [the] Administration can force ‘sanctuary’ jurisdictions to enforce federal immigration law by directing them to rescind their ‘sanctuary’ policies.”
  • “Sanctuary” policies represent legal exercise of local authority as local jurisdictions are “exercising their reserved constitutional authority under the Tenth Amendment to promote the health, safety, and welfare of their residents.”

Cecilia Wang, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU:

Phil Wolgin, Managing Director for the Immigration Policy team at American Progress:


Javier H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York:

Attorney General Sessions continues to show that he is not worthy of his title. By trying to attack jurisdictions that take affirmative steps to protect immigrants and keep all Americans safer, he continues to pander to nativists and white supremacists’ basest urges. But this approach will not work. Immigrant communities are here to stay and will resist every step of the way. And we’re confident that New York City and other pro-immigrant cities and states will hold the line against this policy of hate.”

Angelica Salas, executive director for CHIRLA:

There is absolutely no basis for the Attorney General’s arguments that immigrant-welcoming cities and states are less safe. On the contrary, local police and ICE collaboration can erode community’s trust in their local police and lead to unsafe communities. A 2013 study by the University of Illinois indicated 70% of undocumented immigrants would be less likely to contact law enforcement if they were victims of a crime and if they believed local police cooperated with ICE.

The AG is needlessly threatening to cut funding to cities for doing what every jurisdiction across the country should do: welcome diversity and ensure their local law enforcement builds strong bonds of trust and communication with all communities.

This threat is nothing more than bullying from a president who does not like to lose. The Trump Administration is engaging in fear mongering and possibly violating the constitution.”

Salvador G. Sarmiento of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON):

The racist exploitation of tragedy helped propel Trump into office; and since occupying the White House, the Trump Administration has persisted in a divisive effort to make citizens scared of non-citizens and to make immigrants scared of government. The Trump Administration is now trying to make sanctuary cities scared too. Today, AG Sessions is bullying sanctuary cities by threatening to withhold money. Tomorrow, the head of Trump’s deportation force will take the unprecedented step of lobbying against California’s SB-54, proposed legislation to wall off immigration from criminal law enforcement.

Federal courts will vindicate the rights of cities to refuse Trump’s deportation agenda. They will also likely find Trump’s deportation policies in flagrant violation of the Constitution. But make no mistake about it: the political battle lines that have been drawn are between courage and fear. Now is a time to affirm our shared values.

Also view the statement from America’s Voice here.