By Jon Dougherty
If POTUS Donald Trump wins a second term, and right now that looks like a lock given his approval rating, soaring stock market, great economy, and efforts to deal with China and North Korea, his next big immigration battle will have to be taking on so-called “sanctuary” cities and states.
Fresh off four years’ worth of battling Democrats and Republicans in Congress, but with as much wall built or getting built as he wants (with Mexico, via the newly revised NAFTA-cum-USMCA trade agreement paying for it), the reelected president will no doubt turn his attention to righting the wrongs inherent in immigration law: Those “broken” provisions everyone in D.C. always talks about but never seems willing to fix.
Among them, of course, will be reforming asylum laws, but the biggest magnet for illegal immigrants outside of employers who look the other way (and Trump will fix that, too) are sanctuary policies enacted by cities and states (California).
The one area where former Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not fail this president is in the enforcement of immigrational law. Or rather, attempted enforcement; practically every effort to reign in sanctuary cities that have adopted policies contravening federal law and Justice Department policy have been thwarted by activist federal judges (whom Trump is steadily replacing as well, by the way).
Case in point: The Associated Press reports that sanctuary jurisdictions are still getting their DoJ law enforcement grants despite failing to comply with rules requiring them to cooperate with federal immigration authorities in identifying and turning over illegal immigrants. Democrat-run cities all over the country have routinely flouted those rules, as well as federal immigration law, and are now getting assists from the courts:
About 18 months after the Trump administration threatened to withhold law enforcement grants from nearly 30 places around the country it felt weren’t doing enough to work with federal immigration agents, all but one have received or been cleared to get the money, the Justice Department said.
In most cases, courts chipped away at the crackdown that escalated in November 2017 with letters from former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to 29 cities, metro areas, counties or states it considered as having adopted “sanctuary policies” saying those policies may violate federal law.
Of those 29 jurisdictions — which include cities as large as Los Angeles and as small as Burlington, Vermont — only Oregon has yet to be cleared to receive the grants from 2017, a Justice Department spokesman told The Associated Press this week.
The AP reported that the Trump administration has managed to make some progress with sanctuary jurisdictions, mostly in terms of getting them to change their federal immigration cooperation policies:
Some, but not all, of the 28 jurisdictions were cleared for the grants without changing the policies that triggered the original concern from the Justice Department, now led by Attorney General William Barr. And not all of the places actually have the money in hand yet, or have been told they’ve been cleared to get it.
That some of the threatened cities ended up changing their policies amounts to at least a partial victory for the Trump administration, said Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies for the Center For Immigration Studies, which advocates for tight restrictions on immigration.
“What it looks like to me, the Trump Administration is not able to fully enforce cooperation with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to the extent they would like to, but it is able to fully enforce compliance with existing federal law that some sanctuary jurisdictions have had to change their policies in order to get their money,” Vaughan said.
Not all jurisdictions have been forced to change their policies, however. Some have been cleared to receive Justice Department funds (which are taxpayer funds, let’s never forget) without doing anything.
These cities continue to be magnets for people in our country illegally, and for illegal alien criminals.
In November 2017, the Center for Immigration Studies reported that, at the time, there “are about 300 state and local governments with laws, rules, or policies that impede federal efforts to enforce immigration laws.”
What that means to average Americans is this: “Since 2014, about 10,000 criminal aliens who were released because of sanctuary policies were arrested – again – for new crimes. That’s 10,000 preventable crimes. Sanctuary policies make us all less safe.”
Here is a CIS explainer:
Preparing for Phase II
It seems clear that the Trump administration is gearing up for its next legal phase in battling sanctuary jurisdictions.
In January, the Justice Department demanded records from 23 jurisdictions “that protect illegal immigrants from deportation, demanding documents on whether local law enforcement agencies are illegally withholding information from U.S. immigration authorities,” Reuters reported.
Those targeted jurisdictions included some of the country’s largest cities — New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago — and three states (Illinois, California, and Oregon). The department said it would issue subpoenas to the jurisdictions if they did not fully and promptly comply.
The Justice Department said it was seeking records from 23 jurisdictions — including America’s three largest cities, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, as well as three states, California, Illinois and Oregon — and will issue subpoenas if they do not comply fully and promptly.
Naturally, Democrat-run cities are pushing back.
“This is a destructive ploy by the Trump administration’s lawyers to politicize a routine exchange of information,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said after skipping a meeting Wednesday with the president at the White House. “I refuse to meet with the president under these kinds of threats and fearmongering.”
Outgoing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel added, “The Trump administration’s actions undermine public safety by jeopardizing our philosophy of community policing, as they attempt to drive a wedge between immigrant communities and the police who serve them.”
NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio said the administration was renewing “a racist assault on our immigrant communities.”
But accusations of ‘racism’ and bigotry aside, the president was given a mandate by the American people in 2016: “Fix our immigration mess.”
It will take both of his terms to accomplish that.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10