Gregg Jarrett, FOX News, March 28, 2017
The Trump administration sent Attorney General Jeff Sessions to deliver a blunt message Monday to so-called “sanctuary” cities: Continue to defy federal immigration policy and you’ll take a big hit in the wallet.
Sessions’ announcement that the White House is serious about cutting off funds from cities that protect illegal immigrants from federal deportation was met with bluster and defiance from big-city mayors. But when push comes to shove, they may find the courts ultimately side with President Trump.
For now, it is worth cutting through the posturing and considering how we got here – and what the law actually says.
Giving Sanctuary Is Against The Law
President Obama refused to take action against cities like San Francisco that shield illegal immigrants even after arrests or criminal convictions. He deliberately ignored existing federal law. The Illegal Immigration Reform Act of 1996 requires states and municipalities to cooperate with federal authorities on immigration requests:
“A state or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict… sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.” (8 U.S. Code, section 1373)
That same law allowed President Obama to withhold federal financial support from those cities that continue to thwart the law. Yet, he took no action.
President Trump, even before Sessions’ explicit warning, had promised to take a different course than his predecessor, vowing to withhold federal dollars from cities that protect people who are here illegally. What would that mean? For a large metropolitan area such as San Francisco, it could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money upon which it relies.
Prosecute City Officials
If the carrot and stick approach fails to force city officials to abide by the law, perhaps President Trump should begin charging people with crimes. He can do so under another federal statute which makes it a felony to shield someone who is here illegally:
“Any person who, knowing that an alien has come to the U.S. in violation of law, conceals, harbors, or shields from detection such alien in any place, including any building… shall be imprisoned not more than 5 years.” (8 U.S. Code, section 1324)
Five years behind bars might give city officials pause to rethink their sanctuary philosophy. But there’s an added punishment written in the law: if someone dies because a city official decided not to comply with federal law, the maximum penalty is life behind bars. I’m pretty sure that’ll get the attention of some sheriffs, police chiefs and mayors.
Whether President Trump and his Department of Justice will decide to criminally prosecute city officials who thumb their noses at federal law is unknown.
If he doesn’t, how can he call himself the “law and order” president?