On Monday Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a man whose heart was surgically removed at birth and now sits in a cryogenic chamber in Russia, threatened to cut federal funding from sanctuary cities that “frustrate” the “enforcement of immigration laws.”
Though “sanctuary city” is not a legal term, it is broadly considered to be a jurisdiction that limits the cooperation between local authorities and federal immigration agents. According to the New York Times, “In cities, sanctuary policies often mean local officials do not ask about a person’s immigration status, but there is no universal definition for a sanctuary city.”
“Such policies make their cities and states less safe,” Sessions stated during a White House briefing. “Public safety as well as national security are at stake, and put them at risk of losing federal dollars.”
Sessions referenced violent crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, including the case of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco, who was allegedly shot and killed by an undocumented immigrant in 2015. Sessions also cited a new report released each week by the Department of Homeland Security that details convictions or criminal charges of undocumented immigrants who were released from jails in sanctuary cities.
However, critics argue that the reports are a way to bully cities and states into getting in line with Trump’s immigration agenda. Immigrants are statistically far less likely to commit a crime than an American citizen. It’s also worth noting that there is no such weekly list of crimes committed by young, white men, for example, even though they make up the majority of mass shooters in America.
Sessions also failed to acknowledge the recent deportations of undocumented immigrants who pose no threat to national security, like Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, a 35-year-old mother of two who checked in regularly with officials after she was arrested in 2008 for using a fake Social Security number to work in the country. Neither did he acknowledge the increasingly vulnerable position of undocumented immigrants, like the four women in Denver who dropped domestic abuse cases over fear of deportation.
Though the sanctuary city has existed in America since the early 1980s, the New Yorker reports that the rise of the phenomenon occurred largely in response to former President Obama’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants. Sanctuary cities proliferated after 2014, when several federal courts ruled that local officials do not have the authority to detain someone based solely on the suspicion of immigration status; detention without due process is a violation the Fourth Amendment. According to the Washington Post, complying with ICE detention requests are voluntary.
When Trump issued an executive order that threatened to limit federal funding to states and cities that remain sanctuaries, several mayors and local officials rejected it. However, the financial burden they face is significant. The Daily Beast reports that Travis County in Texas has started a GoFundMe account to raise money after Gov. Greg Abbott withdrew state funding—and that campaign doesn’t include the federal grants it stands to lose.
Sessions announced that the $4.1 billion grant money from the Department of Justice will only go to jurisdictions that grant full enforcement authority to federal immigration officials. On the recent hate crime committed by a white supremacist in New York City, however, Sessions remained silent.