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Federal Judge Issues Injunction Halting Sanctuary City Executive Order

Earlier this week, a federal judge blocked the Trump administration’s bid to withhold federal funding from US Sanctuary Cities. The judge ruled that federal funding could not be withheld because a city “chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the president disapproves.”

This ruling leaves the Trump administration zero for three in efforts to use executive orders against immigrants and would-be immigrants.

What is a Sanctuary City?

While the administration paints a picture of an outlaw’s hideout, sanctuary cities are simply cities that limit their cooperation with the federal government with regard to detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants. The local law enforcement in these cities do not turn over undocumented immigrants to Federal authorities for deportation or detain undocumented immigrants at the Federal authorities’ request.

Although the phrase refers to cities, many counties and a handful of states—including California—have joined the ranks of governmental entities limiting cooperation with federal authorities in this regard. It is estimated that up to 200 cities, counties or states have adopted sanctuary city policies. These policies in no way prevent or hinder the ability of federal authorities to enforce immigration laws within their borders.

Local governments have many reasons for limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities, including prioritizing limited resources and the complexity of federal immigration law. One of the key motivations cited by sanctuary city leaders is public safety. When undocumented immigrant populations are afraid to report crimes or cooperate in investigations for fear of being turned over and deported by federal authorities, the city becomes more dangerous for everyone.

Withholding Federal Funding from Sanctuary Cities

Long before he was elected President, Donald Trump was waging war against US sanctuary cities in the press and before crowds of supporters. He repeatedly highlighted a handful of isolated crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, completely ignoring the millions of undocumented immigrants peacefully living and working in the United States.

On his fifth day in office, Trump issued an executive order titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” The order charged the Attorney General and Secretary of State with ensuring that sanctuary cities do not receive most Federal grants. Late last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the federal government would begin withholding funds from 118 jurisdictions identified by the Department of Homeland Security as “sanctuaries.”

Life in US Sanctuary Cities

Although Trump has asserted that cracking down on sanctuary cities earlier could have prevented “countless needless deaths,” law enforcement officials and hard data tell a different story. The Major Cities Chiefs Association, made up of the leadership of the largest city police departments in the U.S. and Canada, is a leading defender of sanctuary cities. The police organization says that immigration enforcement actions by local police would undermine the trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities. Thomas Manger, President of the organization and Montgomery County, Maryland Police Chief, said “When immigrants come to view their local police and sheriffs with distrust because they fear deportation, it creates conditions that encourage criminals to prey upon victims and witnesses alike.”

Contrary to the vague allegations of the Trump administration and others in their camp, sanctuary cities are safer than non-sanctuary cities. In 2015, Dayton, Ohio police chief Richard Biehl told the House Immigration Subcommittee that the city’s policies had led to a 22% reduction in serious violent crime and a 15% reduction in serious property crime.

Dayton is not an isolated example. A 2012 study from the Center for American Progress determined that US sanctuary cities as a rule had lower crime rates and stronger economies than their non-sanctuary counterparts. On average, sanctuary cities had fewer murders, rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries, larceny, motor vehicle thefts, and arsons. Sanctuary cities also have higher median incomes, lower unemployment rates and lower poverty rates.

Fortunately, all indications are that this executive order oversteps Presidential powers and violates the U.S. Constitution. For the moment, sanctuary cities are free to thrive.

The Alagiri Immigration Law Firm helps people with U.S. immigration matters. For more information, call (650) 931-2509, or fill out the contact form on this site.