THE Washington Post
In its crusade against so-called sanctuary jurisdictions, the Trump administration is on an impressive judicial losing streak, having been slapped down in federal courts from San Francisco to Philadelphia. It remains undeterred, as the Justice Department girds for more battles whose stakes - a few million dollars in federal funds withheld from offending cities - make a mockery of the dire rhetoric deployed by officials in Washington.
The administration is wrong on the law and the principle. It has no valid legal justification for its insistence that state and local law enforcement officers act as proxies for federal immigration agents and no basis for threatening to withhold funding if they refuse. By seeking to compel such conduct, the administration ignores police and prosecutors who warn that driving a wedge between law enforcement and immigrant communities will erode public safety. On Monday, a federal judge in San Francisco permanently blocked President Donald Trump’s executive order seeking to deny funding to uncooperative localities, but the administration shows no sign of giving up the fight.
Just last week, the Justice Department threatened to withhold grant fundingfrom three states (Illinois, Oregon and Vermont) and the District of Columbia, as well as 25 localities in California, Mississippi, Kentucky, Florida, New Mexico, Massachusetts and Washington state. It has suggested, without evidence, that sanctuary policies are driving up crime.
After a federal judge in Philadelphia last week slapped down the administration’s threat to pull $1.6 million in law enforcement grants, a Justice Department spokesman, Devin O’Malley, issued a statement attempting to link the city’s spike in murders this year to its policies.
In fact, there is zero evidence that rising homicides in Philadelphia are related to noncitizens - who commit crimes at no greater rate than citizens, according to the city’s police commissioner- let alone to undocumented immigrants who might be in federal custody if not for local policies. It’s worth noting that undocumented immigrants are arrested, prosecuted and convicted with no less fervor than citizens, even in so-called sanctuary localities.
The administration hopes it can bully localities into more cooperation with federal deportation agents by threatening to withhold funding. But several of the most common so-called sanctuary policies - for instance, barring local police from inquiring about a suspect’s immigration status and refusing to detain prisoners beyond their jail terms at the request of federal agents - are not prohibited by any federal law.
Most jurisdictions seek to balance information-sharing and other forms of cooperation with federal authorities with their interest in forging ties to immigrant communities. The judge in Philadelphia, in ruling against the administration’s threat to withhold funding, found the city had done just that, creating no conflict.
As it happens, the grants the feds wanted to withhold in that case would have covered, among other items, drugs used by first responders to save the lives of opioid overdose victims. How would that have been in the public interest?