President Donald Trump needs to score a “big hit” on the one issue that helped catapult him into the White House, and he needs it soon, say some of his staunchest supporters.
After more than 50 days in office, Trump has struggled to hit a “home-run” on immigration, the kind that would solidify his base and send a message to his enemies.
And it would seem that sanctuary cities would be a good place to start.
Why not defund them, like yesterday? That’s the question from Ann Corcoran, editor of Refugee Resettlement Watch.
“Instead, Congress is entangled in one major mess over Obamacare. And, frankly, although important, repeal of Obamacare did not motivate voters to support Trump in the way immigration restriction did,” said Corcoran.
There are at least 300 sanctuary cities and counties, and one new study puts the number at closer to 500.
Steve Salvi, founder of Ohio Jobs & Justice PAC, has been tracking sanctuary cities for 10 years. He says at least 40 cities and counties have declared themselves sanctuaries since Trump issued his executive order Jan. 27.
“The trend is, I think, until he actually starts putting the squeeze to them, I suspect I’ll be adding more to the list every week,” Salvi told Lifezette. “The bigger cities are doubling down, and it’s really become a hot political issue. It’s really about the next election.”
But Salvi uses a different set of criteria to define a sanctuary city from that used by the Center for Immigration Studies, which stands by its late 2016 estimate of 300.
While some jurisdictions have become sanctuaries, others such as Miami-Dade County have dropped out of that dubious club, says Jessica Vaughan, director of policy for CIS.
But regardless of the number, nobody is suggesting that large numbers of sanctuary cities are backing down.
And Trump has had a shockingly low level of support from the Republican Congress on immigration issues since assuming office on Jan. 20.
Daniel Horowitz, senior editor of Conservative Review, writes: “Look at the House GOP’s agenda since January. It has been devoid of any substance. What other majority party with control of the White House has failed to act on a single significant issue in its first 100 days? Why are they not passing bills defending Trump’s executive order, and why are they not stripping the courts of jurisdiction over immigration?”
Vaughan said Trump could score big with a punch at sanctuary cities. The way to do it is to hit them in the pocketbook, cutting grants to police departments. The sooner this happens, the better, she said, although new Attorney General Jeff Sessions is still assembling his team at the Department of Justice.
“I do hope DOJ follows through and starts blocking some of these law enforcement grants because until they do these big jurisdictions are going to keep doubling down on their sanctuary policies,” Vaughan told WND. “They will not stop until somebody loses funding and then they will come around. They also could be sued in federal court. That’s a fight we should be having.”
Nearly 500 jurisdictions are now sanctuary cities, according to a group that’s tracked the issue for more than a decade, and who said there’s been a massive surge in the number of places trying to thwart federal immigration agents since President Trump’s election.
The Ohio Jobs & Justice Political Action Committee has added more than three dozen new cities and counties to its list in 2017 alone, as jurisdictions rush to try to shield illegal immigrants from what they expect to be a new push for deportations under Mr. Trump.
“More will be coming,” said Steve Salvi, founder of OJJ. “A lot of communities now, there’s resolutions in the works and citizens groups encouraging city councils to pass them.”
Perhaps just as surprising, though, are the four cities OJJ has removed from its list or is poised to remove, once it gets final confirmation of cooperation with Homeland Security officials. Two of those are in Alaska, while the other two are Dayton, Ohio, and Miami, Florida.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced in January that county jails would begin cooperating with federal agents on deportations, just a day after Mr. Trump issued an executive order calling for sanctuary cities to lose federal grant funding.
Mr. Salvi said he’s waiting to see what Miami does to follow through before erasing them from his list.
I want to see statistics and numbers,” he said.
Asked about the growing list of sanctuaries, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that Mr. Trump stands by his promise to deny taxpayer money to those cities and counties.
But he said it’s probably going to be up to local voters to force changes on their city and county politicians.
“At the end of the day, this is a question for mayors and council members at the local level who have to answer to the people that elected them with clearly a position that is not in keeping with what most Americans believe,” Mr. Spicer said.
The OJJ list is longer than several others than also track sanctuaries, and a number of counties and cities on the list dispute being included.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that handled deportations, says 279 municipalities refused to cooperate on at least one case in fiscal year 2016.
All told, those sanctuaries released more than 2,000 illegal immigrants back onto the streets that ICE agents had been trying to deport.