La Opinion: Punishment for Sanctuary Cities Is a Smoke Screen

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Stirring up anti-immigrant sentiment is an effective strategy for the Trump Administration to distract from its failures and controversies. The recent warning issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to sanctuary cities during a press conference held at the White House serves as bait for a political class frustrated with the crumbling of the health law.

Sessions’ threat to eliminate federal subsidies for the over-200 municipalities and cities selectively refusing to hand over detained people to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is popular among conservatives, even though this federal demand has already been deemed unconstitutional.

They want to punish these municipalities who consider that collaborating with ICE unconditionally is detrimental to public safety due to the negative impact this has on local immigrant communities.

These cities have every right to do this. That was already decided in court. According to the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the federal government cannot force cities to act against their will.
In the 2014 case Galarza v. Szalcyk, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit determined that local governments are not obligated to follow ICE detention orders. The opinion cited two U.S. Supreme Court decisions that ratified the municipalities’ rights.

Still, the topic is returning to court.

Sessions said that he will cut their part of the $4.1 billion in annual subsidies to cities that fail to abide by Title 8, Section 1371, of the Code of Federal Regulations. The problem in that the directive only forbids blocking the exchange of information with the federal government. It does not address handing people over the way the government is demanding them to do.

Lastly, it is hypocritical to take federal public safety subsidies away from these cities with the false argument that they are the ones putting security at risk for refusing to obey ICE.

The only important promise made by President Donald Trump that he has kept is the relentless persecution of undocumented people that has gotten the immigrant community terrorized. The tactic serves to create political gains in the eyes of his voters at the expense of the suffering of thousands of split families.

The attack on sanctuary cities is based on unconstitutional premises and erroneous interpretations. The measure may work as proselytism, but it is doomed to be yet another defeat in court for the White House.

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