What Will Become of ‘Sanctuary Cities’ After Trump?

Mayors maintain that protecting undocumented migrants deters crime.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks in Los Angeles after an interfaith prayer service for the immigrant community following the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States. (Photo: Patrick Fallon/Reuters)
Nov 13, 2016· 2 MIN READ
Rebecca McCray is a staff writer covering social justice. She is based in New York.

Chief among the long list of marginalized groups likely to be affected by President-elect Donald Trump’s plan for his first 100 days in office are immigrants. Trump has promised to “cancel” executive orders issued by President Obama that excuse DREAM Act beneficiaries and their families from deportation, build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and deport “the more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas to foreign countries that won’t take them back,” according to the plan.

He also plans to punish cities that protect immigrants by cutting off federal funding. These “sanctuary cities” maintain policies that limit the cooperation of local law enforcement with federal immigration authorities to shield immigrants from deportation. Trump is one of many right-wing politicians who have criticized such cities; in 2015, Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana introduced a bill that would have cut off funding to local police departments in these cities. (The bill died in the Senate.) As a Trump presidency looms and the threat of defunding is renewed, mayors are speaking out.

“We are not going to sacrifice a half million people who live among us, who are part of our community,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference on Thursday. “We are not going to tear families apart.”

Connie Llanos, a spokesperson for Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, another sanctuary city, told Reuters that Garcetti hoped “that no president would violate those principles, the very foundation of our nation, by taking punitive action on cities that are simply protecting the well being of residents.”

Roughly 130 cities have opted to limit compliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement as a matter of policy, to varying degrees. Officials in these cities argue that protecting undocumented immigrants encourages crime reporting and compliance with state and local police.

“These are our neighbors, and we will continue to support our neighbors,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray told reporters on Wednesday. “We can’t allow ourselves to be divided and sorted out. That’s not America.”

These sentiments were echoed by the mayors of Philadelphia and San Francisco this week. The federal aid that could be cut off if Trump follows through with his plans funds everything from transportation projects to local law enforcement.

Trump and Vitter, along with other opponents of detainer policies, argue that they protect immigrants who have committed violent crimes—the “bad hombres” Trump infamously described during the final presidential debate. Vitter’s law was introduced following the death of Kathryn Steinle, a 32-year-old who was shot by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant with a nonviolent felony record, in San Francisco last July.

At a campaign rally in August, Trump promised the crowd he would “end the sanctuary cities that have resulted in so many needless deaths,” lamenting the loss of “countless innocent American lives” (though citing just five) and maintaining that “cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars.” Numerous studies have shown that both legal and undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit serious, violent crimes than U.S. citizens.

On Thursday in a meeting with Republicans on Capitol Hill, Trump identified immigration as one of his top three priorities. The first item on the 10-point immigration plan posted on his transition team’s website is “Build a wall on the Southern border.”