The Washington Examiner highlights a new report that says the federal government spends nearly $27 billion annually on grants and payments to 106 American sanctuary cities – "money that President Trump has threatened to cut off if they continue to thwart federal immigration officials from seizing illegals in jail for local crimes."
The sanctuary city report posted at openthebooks.com notes further that there are "nearly 300 government jurisdictions of states, counties, cities and other governments claiming" sanctuary status.
In contrast, estimates to complete another 1,300 miles of the southern border wall – 670 miles of fencing have already been completed – range from $15 billion to $25 billion.
States such as Texas, Iowa, and Virginia are debating laws that would cut off state funding for sanctuary cities, defined in a proposed Virginia law as "localities adopting any procedure or policy that restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws," while other states such as California and Oregonwould "block police from enforcing federal immigration law."
Big-city mayors like New York's Bill de Blasio and Chicago's Rahm Emanuelhave vowed to "use the courts to fight" the president's executive order blocking federal funds to sanctuary cities.
The federal funds involved in those two cities alone, as listed in the sanctuary cities report, are staggering: $7.6 billion for New York and $5.3 billion for Chicago.
The report provides a detailed breakout of the various grants and payments to New York City, with those funds amounting to almost 10 percent of New York's $82-billion annual budget. New York City has 585,000 "undocumented persons," according to the report.
Sanctuary cities receive federal funding for local police and fire departments, schools, housing, and city services, according to the report, with $16 billion of the total flowing into "just twelve major American cities – where 1 in 5 illegal entrants reside."
The report says the insubordinate cities are imposing a "defiance tax" on their citizens:
Mayors defending their sanctuary city status by refusing to comply with federal law are essentially imposing a defiance tax on local residents. On average, this tax amounts to $500 per man, woman and child.
The sanctuary cities funding numbers provide juicy headlines, but the reality of which funds, if any, would be blocked by the Trump executive order remains to be seen.
The most likely area for blocking federal funds may be law enforcement funds related to incarcerating illegal immigrants – funds that are in the millions, rather than billions. A Texas Republican has done some diligent groundwork in that regard.
Rep. John Culberson, a House appropriations subcommittee chairman, has used his control over Justice Department spending to act on a 1996 Immigration Act that includes a "section 8 U.S.C. 1373, which provided that no state or local entity can in any way restrict its law-enforcement officials from communicating with federal immigration authorities regarding an individual's citizenship or immigration status," according to an article in National Review last fall:
After Culberson met with officials within the Justice Department and made clear that their financial situation could become strained if they refused to cooperate, the department released guidance notifying all U.S. jurisdictions that they must comply with all federal law – including 8 U.S.C. 1373 – in order to receive federal grants."I've effectively created an off-switch that Attorney General Sessions and President Trump can throw at noon on January 20 to cut off all federal law-enforcement grants to these cities."
In an interview to air this Sunday, Culberson adds:
It's real easy, their money disappears. There's no fight, their money is gone.... They are in violation of federal law because federal law requires state and local jurisdictions can't interfere in any way with sharing information about criminal illegal aliens in their custody; in any way means you must cooperate 100 percent of the time – 99 out of 100 of sharing information is not enough.…These are law enforcement grants for the law enforcement of the country and state, the cost of incarcerating illegal aliens in custody, which is particularly galling that these sanctuary jurisdictions hide and protect criminal aliens in their jails from being deported, but they still have to ask for federal money for housing the criminal alien.
The openthebooks.com report concludes that the battle over withholding federal funds to sanctuary cities may ultimately be resolved by the United States Supreme Court.
Withholding federal funds as leverage to encourage states to comply with federal laws is not a new idea. In 1987, the Supreme Court "upheld a law that forced states to raise the drinking age to 21 or lose millions in highway dollars":
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist said that while Congress' power to control federal money is not unlimited, it can be used in the pursuit of the "general welfare."... While Congress may lack the power to directly impose a national drinking age, Rehnquist said, "we conclude that encouragement to state action ... is a valid use of the spending power."
Federal highway funds were also used as leverage to enforce a nationwide 55-mile-per-hour speed limit during the 1974 Arab oil embargo, and again in 1995 to restore state control over speed limits.
The battle royal over federal funds for largely Democrat-controlled sanctuary cities has just begun.