Trump’s Budget Seeks to Expand Definition of Sanctuary Cities

By Alberto Garcia

The Trump Administration released its proposed federal budget this week and, in addition to billions in cuts to Medicare, includes language to expand the definition of “sanctuary cities” in an attempt to withhold federal funding.

The budget proposal released Tuesday included language buried in its 1,284-page appendix that would require local police to hold suspects for 48 hours to give Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) time to investigate the person’s immigration status, or the cities would risk losing millions of dollars in federal funds.

In order to take effect, the language would have to be in the final budget approved by Congress, but the change is another clear attack by the Administration on cities and counties that have resisted enforcing federal immigration laws. About 300 cities and counties in the U.S. have passed so-called sanctuary status policies that focus local law enforcement on public safety, not immigration enforcement.

Donald Trump often criticized sanctuary cities during his campaign and promised to cut funding for them if he became President. To his word, Trump has attempted to find various ways to withhold federal funds to such cities. So far, his administration has not found a legal way to enforce the threat.

President Trump issued an executive order on January 25, that directed the Attorney General and Department of Homeland Security to create an official definition of sanctuary cities in an attempt to strip them of billions in federal funds.

A lawsuit seeking to stop that executive order was filed by the City of San Francisco and other localities that have passed sanctuary policies.

A judge then blocked President Trump’s executive order in April, accusing the White House of wrongly trying to threaten the cities and saying Congress, not the President, gets to decide what strings to attach to federal funds.

“The counties have a strong interest in avoiding unconstitutional federal enforcement and the significant budget uncertainty that has resulted from the order’s broad and threatening language,” Judge William Orrick wrote in his April decision.

The White House has promised to appeal that decision to the Court of Appeals, and, if needed, to the Supreme Court.

The language in this week’s budget is the latest attempt to punish cities for refusing to enforce immigration laws.

Federal law already limits cities from passing laws that prohibit their employees from sharing “information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual” with ICE.

This new language would expand the information that cities would have to provide to ICE, including “nationality, citizenship, immigration status, removability, scheduled release date and time, home address, work address, or contact information” of each suspect in custody.

The new expanded definition in the budget is very similar to language in the Davis-Oliver Act, a bill that was approved by the House Judiciary Committee this week. That bill is named in honor of Michael Davis, Jr. and Danny Oliver, two Sheriff’s deputies killed by an undocumented immigrant in 2014.

The budget proposal will be debated in the House in the coming weeks, and, if passed, would still have to be passed by the Senate.

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