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Trump's threat to sanctuary cities could lose D.C. over $1B in federal funding

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Despite Trump’s promise to deport between two to three million undocumented immigrants, Mayor Bowser vows to maintain D.C.’s status as a sanctuary city

Photo via SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Federal grant money may one day be stripped away from sanctuary states and cities, according to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer who announced President Donald Trump’s plans to sign two immigration-related executive orders this Wednesday. By taking action against sanctuary cities, this could cause municipalities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. to lose millions and maybe even billions of dollars in federal funding.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Jen Budoff, D.C. Council budget director, confirmed that the District receives over $1 billion per year in federal grants on everything from senior nutrition to arts grants to refugee resettlement.

As a sanctuary city, that means that Washington, D.C. refuses to cooperate with federal enforcement of immigration laws. Undocumented immigrants are then able to be sheltered from deportation in the District. Over 360 counties and 39 cities in the U.S. fall under this category.

According to The White House website, the executive order that Trump plans to sign reads (in section nine, part a):

“In furtherance of this policy, the Attorney General and the Secretary, in their discretion and to the extent consistent with law, shall ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 (sanctuary jurisdictions) are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary. The Secretary has the authority to designate, in his discretion and to the extent consistent with law, a jurisdiction as a sanctuary jurisdiction. The Attorney General shall take appropriate enforcement action against any entity that violates 8 U.S.C. 1373, or which has in effect a statute, policy, or practice that prevents or hinders the enforcement of Federal law.”

With the promise to deport two to three million undocumented immigrants, Trump’s threats may run afoul of the 10th Amendment, which address the separation of powers between the federal government, states, and cities.

Despite the threat of federal funding being stripped from Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser said that the District—with its estimated 25,000 undocumented immigrants—will remain a sanctuary city.

In a statement, Bowser said, "We are a sanctuary city because we know that our neighborhoods are safer and stronger when no one is afraid to call on our government for help, and when our police can focus on protecting and serving."

Councilmember Brandon Todd further stood in agreement with Bowser, releasing this statement on Thursday: “Ward 4 has the highest number of Latino, Caribbean, and African residents in the District of Columbia, and the second-highest number of Asian-Pacific Islanders. It is of the utmost importance to me that all residents continue to feel comfortable asking the government for help and are able to be good, active, vibrant members of their communities. We do not want our residents living in the shadows. We want them out in the open where they can be contributing members of society and our great city.”

DCist reported that former Mayor Vincent Gray signed an executive order five years ago, prohibiting D.C. public safety officials from inquiring about immigration status.

D.C. plans to become a sanctuary city. It should do so carefully. [The Washington Post]

Bowser Says D.C. Remains A Sanctuary City [DCist]

Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States [White House]

Sanctuary cities: What you need to know about Trump’s executive order [Curbed.com]