Bay Area ‘Sanctuary Cities' Could Lose More Than $1 Billion, Experts Say Move is Unconstitutional

Just after President Donald Trump signed orders on Wednesday to cut off federal funding to the nation’s “sanctuary cites,” mayors from the left-leaning Bay Area's three largest cities, Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose, as well as Berkeley, reaffirmed their commitment to immigrants as well as a host of other issues.

By doing so, those four cities could stand to lose a combined $1.2 billion in money that funds such things as Head Start programs, HUD grants for affordable housing, transportation funds and Department of Justice and Homeland grants – the latter of which is unlikely because of Trump’s pro-security stance. "It’s time to restore the civil rights of Americans," Trump said Thursday at a Republican retreat in Philadelphia.

Still, the mayors are willing to risk it.

"If and when the federal cuts come, we will be united behind our promises and values. We are ready," San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said during his state-of-the-city address on Thursday. He said his city gets $1 billion from the federal government.

He also pinned a tweet to the top of his feed saying, "We're confirming our sanctuary city status," to which he got both support and flak.

Someone with Twitter account called Deplorable Fighter said "um they have no rights, simple end of story." And the handle, New Sheriff in Town, wrote "We're going to shut your illegal a-- down."

San Jose is not officially a sanctuary city, meaning the council has never voted on a resolution to declare it as such. But city spokesman David Vossbrink said that because the police department does not ask people when they are arrested whether they are legal immigrants — and therefore does not help federal immigration agents in that way — Trump might indeed feel that the city should be penalized.

(Read police duty manual page 545: Officers will not detain or question a person for the purpose of discovering either the person's citizenship or status under civil immigration laws. But if the person is arrested and is not a U.S. citizen, the officer should complete an ICE form.)

Reuters compiled a chart showing that the Top 10 sanctuary cities in the country could stand to lose $2.27 billion in cuts with the new policy, although some of the numbers could be disputed. For example, Lee said San Francisco receives $1 billion a year in federal funds, while Reuters put the number at $71 million. Reuters noted their figure didn't account for money that is granted directly to social-service organizations and did not include federal money for law enforcement, which was not included in Trump's order.

Despite Trump’s executive order saying he would stop  giving money to cities that don’t cooperate with federal immigration officials, several attorneys have said what he did is unconstitutional.

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“The president has very limited power to exercise any kind of significant defunding,” Peter L. Markowitz, the director of the Immigration Justice Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York told the New York Times.

According to a 2012 Supreme Court decision, Markowitz said Congress is not permitted to set conditions on spending to force states or cities to participate in a federal program against their will.

“You can’t say ‘if you don’t use your police officers to go after unauthorized immigrants, you don’t get any money for your hospitals,’” Markowitz told the Times. “ They can’t impose conditions that are totally unrelated.”

According to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center,  at least 39 cities and 364 counties nationwide count themselves as sanctuary jurisdictions. Only four states, including California, have laws that limit how much local police can help federal authorities hold immigrants in detention.

San Francisco has been in the national spotlight because of its controversial sanctuary city status. In July 2015, an undocumented immigrant shot and killed Kate Steinle on Pier 14 with a stolen gun. At the time, Trump and others bashed San Francisco because the sheriff's department released Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez from jail without telling ICE. The Board of Supervisors voted in May to uphold and revise the sanctuary city policy to clarify that law enforcement would only notify immigration authorities of an inmate's release in limited circumstances involving serious felonies.

Bay Area Activists Rally for 'Sanctuary Cities'

Here’s what Bay Area mayors said Wednesday about Trump’s order, and how much federal funding they each receive.

  •  "The Bay Area stands united against this White House's morally bankrupt policies that would divide families, turn our nation's back on refugees in need, and potentially thwart the efforts of nearly one million productive young people who are on a legal path to citizenship. Oaklanders rely on $130 million in federal funding for everything from early education programs like Head Start to getting officers out of their cars and onto our streets at a time when community policing is so desperately needed. We will not allow this president to play politics with our safety and security." - Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. Oakland receives $130 million in federal funding annually.
  •  "Nothing about the President's Executive Order will change how San Jose cops police our city. The San Jose Police Department's longstanding policies relating to immigration enforcement are critical to keeping our community safe. Our police officers must focus their scarce time responding to and investigating violent, predatory and other high-priority crimes - not the enforcement of federal tax laws, federal securities laws, or federal immigration laws. There's a broad consensus among major city police chiefs that having local officers meddle in federal immigration enforcement undermines public safety, and diminishes community trust. We need to ensure that all residents feel comfortable calling 911, reporting crimes, coming forward as witnesses, and testifying in court to help us keep criminals off the street." - San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. San Jose gets $78 million in federal funding annually but is not officially a sanctuary city.
  •  "The Bay Area is home to millions of people who have sought refuge and a chance at a better life. As mayors, we stand together in our responsibility to keep our cities safe and healthy and take care of all our residents and families, regardless of status. We will not give in to threats, or political grandstanding. Together, the Bay Area will stay true to our values of inclusiveness, compassion and equality, and united against any and all efforts to divide our residents, our cities, and our country." - San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. Lee said that San Francisco gets $1 billion a year in federal funding.
  •  "Our values of human rights, equity, and inclusion have come under attack by the Trump Administration. In just two days, Trump has pushed a divisive wall, stripped our citizens of civil liberties, and cut funding to cities that have the courage to stand up for all people - whether or not they are legal citizens. We will not be intimidated by threats to cut funding to cities that believe in the fundamental notion that no person is illegal. No amount of federal funding is worth betraying our values." - Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín. Berkeley gets $11.5 million annually in federal funding, according to Oakland Magazine.
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