On the same day that Chicago went to court to challenge the administration’s sanctuary city order as unconstitutional, and despite the fact that a federal judge has issued an order blocking enforcement of a major part of a threat by the Trump administration to cut off funding to sanctuary cities, Miami has no longer sanctuary city, notes public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
Although the government has admitted in court that its sanctuary city executive order is “toothless,” “did not change existing law,” “carries no legal force,” and was “merely an exercise of the President’s bully pulpit,” cities should nevertheless fear the order, and many like Miami may change their policies as a result, says Banzhaf, who correctly predicted the judge’s action.
Although it may have no legal effect even if the injunction is lifted, the executive order still sends a clear message to dozens of federal agencies and thousands of bureaucrats that the President is strongly opposed to grants being awarded (or even renewed) to hundreds of so-called sanctuary cities.
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Many political appointees and others who favor the President’s views are likely to avoid awarding any such grants, and even those opposed to the President’s policy may well shy away from making such awards out of fear of alienating their superiors, predicts Banzhaf.
For example, in the wake of the original announcement by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he would cut off funding if so-called sanctuary cities did not begin cooperating with the federal government regarding illegal aliens, it has been reported that the New York City Police Department [NYPD] alerts Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] agents if immigrants facing deportation are due to appear in Criminal Court, thereby making it easier for them to be detained by the federal government.
In another example, Florida’s Miami Dade, long known for welcoming immigrants, has ordered jails there to “fully cooperate” with Trump’s order in an effort to obtain today’s determination that it is no longer a sanctuary city – and other cities may well follow in its lead.
The executive order, even if it is likely to have little if any legal effect, will nevertheless provide ammunition to state legislators seeking to pass laws to require their own cities to give up their sanctuary status, since they can now argue more effectively that grant applications – including even renewal applications – from such jurisdictions are much more likely to be denied by federal grant makers.
Already other states are moving to pressure localities to begin cooperating with federal immigration enforcement. These include, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Since the award or denial of individual grant applications is highly discretionary and therefore not generally subject to challenges in court, and because the reasons for denials – or for the award of a contested grant to another applicant – are rarely given, those jurisdiction which continue to proclaim themselves as sanctuary cities may risk the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars with no opportunity to do anything about it.
Whether they will continue to do so, solely to protect people illegally in the country who by and large do not vote, is doubtful, suggests Banzhaf, noting that it may take many months, if not years, for the courts to definitively resolve the suit filed by Chicago, and about to be filed by California and other cities.