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Sanctuary Cities Find Legal Holes In Trump’s Immigration Orders

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Sanctuary Cities Find Legal Holes In Trump’s Immigration Orders

Sanctuary cities, Immigration, Trump

(Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s executive order directing federal agencies to take away funding from self-proclaimed sanctuary cities had one big exemption for one of his favorite constituencies: the police, who would be protected from cuts.

But Trump’s opponents say that very exemption makes it much more likely that a judge could strike down that section of the order as unconstitutional.

It is just one example of the legal arguments that cities, immigration groups, and other opponents are readying as they prepare to fight an executive order signed by Trump on Wednesday that would cut federal aid to “sanctuary” jurisdictions that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Lawyers for the potential challengers pointed to court rulings that said the federal government can only withhold funds to local jurisdictions if the money is directly tied to the behavior it objects to.

The Trump administration cannot cut funds for sanctuary cities’ healthcare and education while preserving money for police, since those jobs relate more closely to immigration enforcement, said Richard Doyle, city attorney in San Jose, California. He said it was not clear whether existing federal funding or only future grants would be targeted.

Supporters of the new Republican president’s actions say that sanctuary cities ignore federal law and think the White House will be able to answer with a strong case in court.

Federal law allows Trump to restrict public assistance “of any kind where an illegal alien could possibly benefit,” said Dale Wilcox, executive director of the Washington-based conservative Immigration Reform Law Institute.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio in a news conference said his chief legal officer would be in court the “hour” after any specific action to withhold money came through.

“There is less here than meets the eye. This executive order is written in a very vague fashion,” said de Blasio, a Democrat.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, also a Democrat, said his office was still examining whether it could sue before Trump made any specific move to cut funds.

Trump’s order directed that funding be slashed to all jurisdictions that refuse to comply with a statute that requires local governments to share information with immigration authorities.

Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said the cities can argue “they are fully in compliance with that statute,” since they do share information with federal authorities, but offer limited cooperation when it comes to turning over immigrants who are not convicted criminals.

There could also be procedural snarls to implementing the cuts, lawyers who specialize in federal grants said. If the U.S. government seeks to cut off grants to a certain recipient, it must go through a complicated process known as “suspension and debarment,” and cities would have the right to appeal.

“It’s fair to say that they don’t understand the scope and reach of federal grants law,” said Edward Waters, who heads the federal grants practice at the law firm Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell in Washington, referring to the Trump administration.

The White House would also have to negotiate with states that are home to sanctuary cities. Nearly 90 percent of $652 billion the federal government handed out through more 1,500 separate grant programs in the most recent fiscal year went to states, not directly to cities, according to a Reuters review of federal spending data.

If the Trump administration wanted to try to cut off Medicaid money to Chicago, for example, it would have to work through the state government of Illinois, which could pose an additional barrier, Waters said.

Advocacy groups for immigrants’ rights said they are also preparing their own legal challenges to other aspects of two executive orders Trump signed on Wednesday, examining sections that deal with expanding detention of immigrants and changing how asylum requests are processed.

“All of our legal research is done, most of the complaints are all drafted,” said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, based in Los Angeles. She said litigation could be filed in the next days.

(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York, Dan Levine in San Francisco and Andy Sullivan in Washington; Additional reporting by Hillary Russ in New York; Editing by Amy Stevens)

IMAGE: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio presents the Fiscal Year 2018 Preliminary Budget at New York City Hall in New York, U.S., January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Sam Hodgson/The New York Times/Pool



  1. Thomas Martin January 27, 2017

    I say we take away Trump’s executive power until he provides the public with his tax returns and follows established laws and the Constitution of the United States. How many lawsuits have been filed since he was sworn in? Where is the Congress of the United States? Oh, doing the usual nothing.

    1. InGen12 January 27, 2017

      We know the contractor for his DC hotel has sued him this week for the $2M Drumpf owes him for work on the hotel. Typical, corrupt Don the Con behavior. Go in front of the cameras and brag about the hotel being completed on time and UNDER BUDGET (because he refused to pay for work that was done).

      1. johninPCFL January 27, 2017

        BTW, “on time” was in trumptime, because it was a year later than the trump announcement at job commencement.

    2. Rhodawmax January 28, 2017

      Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family! !mj413d:
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    3. dpaano January 30, 2017

      Actually, Congress can’t do anything…..45 hasn’t even bothered to let them know what he’s doing. The Congress thought that once they had a Republican president, they could all work together and get things done, but the problem is that 45 hasn’t even bothered to work with them and just willy nilly does his own thing! He isn’t used to having to deal with a Congress! This is NOT making the members of the Congress feel very happy!!!

      1. Thomas Martin January 31, 2017

        Trump is just a 1%er who is playing his game to make money for his tribe and to shaft the American people. He has no emotion and could care less about humanity. Congress is inept. I was proud when the Dems walked out of the hearings today. The Repubs blocked critical legislation for the last 7 years and they will pay the price for their ignorance thanks to Ryan and McConnell. Then they act dumbstruck when they are treated like they treated Obama. I hope we never approve their Supreme Court nominee.

        1. dpaano January 31, 2017

          I tend to agree; however, I don’t think the Democrats in Congress have much of a choice since they are in the minority, but they can certainly make it difficult. After all, wasn’t it McConnell who vowed the first day of President Obama’s administration that they would not do anything and would make him a one-term president. We can do that too, but they seem to think that we’re rude for doing the very same thing that they did those many years ago!!!

  2. shesaid5 January 28, 2017

    Obama administration has admitted that Sanctuary Cities are a problem:


    But, within the above letter, doesn’t really address what the Obama administration will actually do about it to protect US Citizens:


  3. dpaano January 30, 2017

    I think 45 (my new name for the idiot) will be spending a lot of time in court with all the lawsuits that will be pending against him for trying to go over the Constitutional rights of this country! Should be interesting.


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