The Corner

Trump Is Right to Deny Federal Funding to Sanctuary Cities

During last year’s presidential election, Donald Trump promised that one of his first acts as president would be to address the United States’ illegal-immigration problem. “We have some bad hombres here,” Trump said. “We’re going to get them out.”

On January 25, just five days after he took the oath of office, Trump stayed true to his word: He signed Executive Order 13768, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” which prioritizes the removal of illegal immigrants with criminal records.

But Trump’s executive order does far more than remove illegal immigrants with criminal records; it threatens to cut federal funding from the nearly 300 “sanctuary jurisdictions” across the country — that is, those government entities within counties, cities, and states that refuse to enforce federal immigration laws and thus to shield illegal immigrants from deportation.

Trump’s threat will not likely coax every sanctuary jurisdiction into enforcing federal law, but according to a report published Thursday by Open the Books, a non-profit dedicated to disclosing government spending, many sanctuary jurisdictions do rely pretty heavily on federal funds, and if they were to lose those funds they would have to reconsider their current spending levels on a wide range of city services, including fire departments, housing, schools, and police. Trump’s threat must be taken seriously.

Open the Book’s report, titled “Federal Funding of America’s Sanctuary Cities,” examined all sanctuary cities (not states or counties). There are 106 in total, and together they are home to nearly six million of the United States’ eleven million illegal immigrants. In fiscal year 2016, the federal government doled out nearly $27 billion to them. “On average, the cost of lost federal funding for a family of four residing in one of the 106 sanctuary cities is $1,810 — or $454 per person,” the report stated.

Many highly populated cities — such as Los Angeles, which received over 500 million in federal funding in 2016 — will presumably be able to sustain without accepting federal funds (funding per resident is only $126 in L.A.). Philadelphia, too, enjoys limited federal funding per capita. The City of Brotherly Love was granted $600 million in federal funds in 2016, but with a population of over 1.5 million funding per resident averaged $376.

But other cities — Boston, for example — would likely feel the pinch if they elect to ignore federal law. Open the Books found that Boston received $760 million in federal funds in 2016 — around $3,228 per person. Similarly, Washington, D.C. — yes, our nation’s capital is a sanctuary city — received two billion in federal funds, averaging $3,228 per resident. If Trump’s threat is taken seriously in cities such as these, the “dilemma” that they are facing may not be much of a dilemma at all.

Austin Yack — Austin Yack is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute and a University of California, Santa Barbara alumnus.

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