President Trump this week signed an executive order declaring war on so-called sanctuary cities. Agencies within the United States Government will begin withholding federal grant funds from those cities, and additional actions to enforce federal immigration law will be taken soon.
Unlike Obama, President Trump is not trying to making new laws by executive decree. In his Executive Order, the president is only reminding mayors and governors of existing federal law dating to 1996:
U.S. Code › Title 8 › Chapter 12 › Subchapter II › Part IX › § 1373
8 U.S. Code § 1373 – Communication between government agencies and the Immigration and Naturalization Service:
Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal, State, or local law, a Federal, State, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.
(b) Additional authority of government entitiesNotwithstanding any other provision of Federal, State, or local law, no person or agency may prohibit, or in any way restrict, a Federal, State, or local government entity from doing any of the following with respect to information regarding the immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual:
(1) Sending such information to, or requesting or receiving such information from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
(2) Maintaining such information.
(3) Exchanging such information with any other Federal, State, or local government entity.
(c) Obligation to respond to inquiries
The Immigration and Naturalization Service shall respond to an inquiry by a Federal, State, or local government agency, seeking to verify or ascertain the citizenship or immigration status of any individual within the jurisdiction of the agency for any purpose authorized by law, by providing the requested verification or status information.
(Pub. L. 104–208, div. C, title VI, § 642, Sept. 30, 1996, 110 Stat. 3009–707.
The president’s executive order is not only good news for law enforcement, it is also a good civics lesson for some mayors and even some members of Congress.
- The mayor of Denver last week said in the same breath that Denver is not a sanctuary city but it will continue to defy federal immigration law.
- Congressman Michael Coffman, whose district office is located in Aurora, Colorado, made an announcement after the mayor of Aurora similarly disclaimed the label “Sanctuary City” while affirming, sanctuary policies, Representative Coffman said he will propose a bill in Congress defining a sanctuary city as ONLY cities which call themselves sanctuary cities.
- Is it any wonder citizens are confused when politicians go to such lengths to obfuscate the issue?
The Trump executive order is also good news for taxpayers. Sanctuary cities impose a huge, billion cost to taxpayers that has been hidden from public view and shielded from political accountability.
- That annual taxpayer burden amounts to over $14 Billion nationally, over $1 billion in California and Texas and over $100 million annually in over a dozen states.
This will be news to you because those annual taxpayer costs are hidden from public scrutiny — by Congress, by state legislatures, and by local officials. Sanctuary city policies have a high cost not only in allowing criminal aliens to roam free on our streets, they also impose a huge burden on taxpayers.
How can we estimate those taxpayers costs? There is a wealth of data hidden in the annual reports on the federal State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) published by the US Department of Justice and each state department of corrections that chooses to apply for reimbursement grants under that program. Over 2,000 local county sheriffs also get federal reimbursement grants under that federal program.
The taxpayer costs revealed by those annual reports are mind-boggling. States and local communities are being reimbursed at less than three cents on the dollar of the true costs for criminal alien incarceration, but politicians are hiding that fact from the nation’s taxpayers.
In my home state of Colorado, the 2016 SCAAP report by the state Department of Corrections revealed that state prison system was holding 2,039 criminal aliens at a cost of $37,958 per inmate. That is a total cost of $77,396,362. The federal reimbursement grant was $2,077, 720. That is a grant of 2.7 cents for every dollar of actual cost. Those 2,039 criminal alien inmates were 14% of all state prison inmates: One in every seven felons in the state prison system is a criminal alien.
What are the comparable numbers for your state? You can discover the SCAAP grant amounts for each state prison system and the local county jails applying for federal reimbursement at this website.
The federal SCAAP grant program was established by Congress as an acknowledgment of federal responsibility for a failed border security and failed federal enforcement of immigration laws. But the appropriated amount for reimbursing local communities their incarceration costs through SCAAP grants has NEVER been adequate for full cost reimbursement. In 2016, the federal reimbursement program was given a paltry $189 million.
- At 2.7 cents on the dollar, that amount would not reimburse the full costs of even one of the five states having over 10,000 criminal aliens in the state’s jails and prisons and receiving over $6 million in SCAAP grants– California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Arizona.
- That $189 million would be $7 BILLION annually if the federal government wanted to reimburse states and local communities the full cost of incarcerating over 200,000 criminal aliens
To most Americans, these hidden taxpayer costs are not the most important reason for opposing sanctuary city policies. The real cost is not in taxpayer dollars but in the hundreds of thousands of crimes committed by individuals who should not be here in the first place. If we had secure borders and effective enforcement of all immigration, these criminal alien incarceration numbers would be very small.
Yet, the fact that local governments hide these cost figures is symptomatic of the deeper problem. Too many local officials want all the political benefits of claiming to be the protector of “our immigrant community” while hiding the costs of protecting criminal aliens. Does your local sheriff publish the incarceration costs for criminal alien inmates in your local jail. Does he ever acknowledge the number of criminal aliens released from jail annually who are NOT turned over to federal immigration authorities because of local sanctuary policies? Does anyone on your local city council ever ask those questions?
Some local politicians also use a phony “states rights” argument for resisting federal enforcement of immigration law. This is a phony argument because there is a long string of Supreme Court decisions, most recently the 2012 Arizona v. United States ruling by Justice Kennedy, saying that the Constitution in Article VI gives the federal government preemptive authority over immigration law. States cannot “opt-out’ of federal immigration law, and neither can cities or counties– or universities or private religious organizations.
While public attention has been focused on the non-enforcement policies of the Obama administration, the truth is, even without official sanctuary policies established by mayors of local government, too many local sheriffs and police chiefs have been hiding behind an alleged “fear of liability” in not honoring the Detainer requests made by federal law enforcement, namely the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency– known as ICE.
- Based only on one federal district court decision in 2014 in Clackamas County, Oregon, sheriffs across the country have been intimidated into rejecting ICE detainers by the mere threat of lawsuits by ACLU and sanctuary advocates.
- The fact is, ICE has revised its Detainer form to meet the constitutional standards for Probable Cause and thus render that district court ruling moot.
ICE detainers are fully legal and should be — indeed, MUST be– honored by local law enforcement agencies. Local sheriffs and police chiefs have no constitutional basis for refusing to honor ICE detainers.
Citizens should hold local officials accountable when they refuse to obey the law. The Trump administration is making it clear that federal sanctions will be imposed — including the withholding of federal funds — from cities which want to disobey the law. But local citizens need not remain silent in this battle.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to note the figure for the cost to Colorado is $37,958 rather than $27,958.