President Donald Trump needs a major victory, and after the first, failed effort to repeal Obamacare, many pundits are wondering if he can stop California from becoming a “sanctuary state.”
“Showing a giant middle finger to President Trump, California is on its way to becoming the first sanctuary state in the nation,” notes Washington Post columnist Amber Phillips, who has suggested a five-point plan for how Trump might go about picking a fight with California — and what might happen.
Phillips argues that Trump has to stop the first sanctuary state from becoming the symbol of successful resistance:
“Sanctuary cities are one of the most high-profile acts of defiance to a Trump presidency, and the president has expressed a zero-tolerance policy toward them. In his first week in office, Trump signed an executive order declaring that sanctuaries are in violation of federal law and “have caused immeasurable harm to the American people.”
In the past few months, California has become the epicenter of resistance to Trump’s policies. Here are just a few of the headlines out of California since Trump’s Election:
- California State Senate Leader: ‘Half My Family’ Here Illegally
- Democrats Threaten to Make California a ‘Sanctuary State’
- #CalExit: State Approves ‘California Nation’ to Collect Signatures
- California Goes One Step Beyond ObamaCare, Proposes Single-Payer Healthcare System to Include Illegal Aliens
- San Francisco Seeks to Freeze Trump’s ‘Sanctuary City’ Cuts
- California Democrats Propose In-State Tuition for Refugees
- California Democrats Threaten to Stop Paying Federal Taxes
- CA State Senator Amends Bill to Make ‘Discrimination Against’ Border Wall Contractors Legal
California Democrats have made it clear they intend to fight Trump every step of the way with legislation and legal action at the very least — and in the streets if necessary.
So far, dozens of California cities have declared themselves sanctuaries in response to Trump’s threat to defund all sanctuary cities.
Here is how the Post columnist sees it playing out:
Step 1a: The Trump administration tries to shame California
This has been in the works for a while, but California seems to have the upper hand—as courts have handed Trump defeat after defeat on his travel ban, which may be a shadow of decisions to come when first he cuts off funds to the first sanctuary city, or to the state as a whole, pending the passage of SB 54 in the state legislature.
Step 1b: The Trump administration cuts off grant money to California
Already in the works as well. California may soon lose law enforcement funding as well as federal funds for free health care and food stamps for the poor because of the state’s refusal to hand over fingerprints of illegal aliens.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made it clear that he means to cut off billions in funding if local authorities persist in refusing to turn over illegal aliens when requested to do so.
Step 2: California challenges the withholding of money in court
There are already multiple cases before California courts, the most notable of which was brought by the oldest and certainly the most notorious sanctuary city, San Francisco.
Step 3: The Trump administration sues California
It’s possible that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) could sue California, but it would likely wind up in the same federal courts that rejected Trump’s travel ban.
Step 4: Trump does it himself
Trump could order the arrest any elected official or member of law enforcement who refuses to cooperate with federal agents on obstruction of justice charges. That might change the minds of some of those chanting “sanctuary for all.”
The final step, perhaps: Congress becomes involved
Most of Trump’s problems would be solved if Congress passed a law that allowed the federal government to cut off broader funding for sanctuary cities and states, beyond what is in the DOJ’s discretion.
They did it in 2015, and it wouldn’t be hard to do it again. It might even be a good way to bring together the rancorous House after the disastrous ObamaCare 2.0 debacle.
One thing is sure. If President Trump is looking for a fight on sanctuary policy, the one sure place to find one is to look west to California.