President Donald Trump recently said of the state of California: “I don’t want to defund the state or city. But if they’re going to have sanctuary cities we may have to do that — certainly, that would be a weapon.”
It has been said we are a nation of laws and laws must be followed to ensure an orderly society. That’s the ideal upon which America was established. But today, laws of the land are frequently ignored.
One example: Despite a federal law against the possession of marijuana, nearly 30 states — including California — and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in some form. The feds appear to have given up trying to enforce the federal law except in cases where massive amounts of weed are involved.
Another example: Dozens of locations across the country have refused to help enforce the federal law to deport illegal immigrants who have been either convicted or charged with crimes.
The Homeland Security Department has made the law clear: every jurisdiction should alert the closest Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, agents when an undocumented immigrant is being held or is about to be released from custody. Deportation is the next step.
This was the stated procedure under President Barack Obama’s administration — which ignored so-called sanctuary cities’ noncompliance — and continues under Trump’s watch. The difference is that Trump is in no mood to ignore anything.
It is difficult to decipher exactly how many jurisdictions have said no to the feds on this. Some places waffle on their policy, and some deliberately keep their uncooperative intentions quiet.
But at last count, more than 200 cities and counties in 32 states have declared that they are a sanctuary city and will not cooperate with ICE.
Many citizens of sanctuary cities fervently believe humanitarian motives should replace suspicion of immigrants, that foreigners are essential to our melting pot economy. And local law enforcement officials insist they don’t have the money or manpower to help ICE do its job, and they fear a backlash when trying to solve crimes in their minority communities where eyewitnesses or informants will shut down if local law enforcement is seen as working with ICE.
But one cannot help but be shocked after reading the new weekly list Trump ordered outlining crimes committed by illegal immigrants and the jurisdictions that failed to honor ICE detention requests.
No perpetrator names are mentioned, but many of the listed crimes are serious: homicide, rape, domestic violence, arson, aggravated assault, burglary, gun possession, dangerous drug possession, identity theft/forgery and DUI convictions. Most of those arrested came from Mexico and Central American countries. Others in the United States illegally came from as far away as Brazil, Cambodia, India, Tonga, Venezuela and Vietnam.
Without local cooperation with the feds, convicted criminals who are in this country illegally will simply be allowed to leave lockup after they’ve served their time. They weren’t legal when they were arrested, and they aren’t legal now. Is this OK with you?
Realize that in 2015, for example, 19,723 foreign-born convicts were freed and allowed to remain here — many not accepted back to the country of their birth, so they simply stayed in the United States.
That group accounted for more than 64,000 crimes, including more than 800 robberies, 614 sex offenses, 216 kidnappings and 196 murders.
There is something wrong with this picture.
A showdown with Washington, D.C., nears.
“No more funding,” then-presidential candidate Trump vowed. “We will end the sanctuary cities that have resulted in so many needless deaths. Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars.”
Last month, Trump signed an executive order declaring that sanctuary jurisdictions are no longer “eligible to receive federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes.”
That could mean a loss of billions of dollars to those locations, but so far almost none are budging from their sanctuary stance.
Can a president legally withhold funds? Court challenges have already been filed, and there will surely be howls of protest from Congress about being left out of the process.
Some insist that Trump’s idea is unconstitutional. Indeed, in 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government cannot command a state to “administer or enforce federal … laws and regulations.”
This situation is so reminiscent of the marijuana debate. The federal government sticking to its old ways, unable to come up with a creative or diplomatic solution to a modern-day circumstance.
An authority can easily stare down two or three adversaries, but more than 200 jurisdictions in 32 states determined to buck Washington? Given all that opposition and the shaky legal standing, all I can say is good luck with following through on that threat, Mr. President.
— Diane Dimond is the author of Thinking Outside the Crime and Justice Box. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Twitter: @DiDimond, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.