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Trump’s Immigration Executive Order Gives Some Local Governments Pause

Protesters chant slogans against President Donald Trump's executive order on Muslim immigration Thursday in downtown Miami.

Protesters chant slogans against President Donald Trump's executive order on Muslim immigration Thursday in downtown Miami. Alan Diaz / AP Photo


Connecting state and local government leaders

Miami-Dade County leads a flurry of jurisdictions distancing themselves from “sanctuary city” status for fear of losing federal grant money.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez directed jails under his purview to uphold federal immigration detention requests, the first “sanctuary” jurisdiction to concede to President Trump’s threats to potentially deny them funding.

On Wednesday, Trump signed an executive order giving the federal government the discretion to deny grants to cities and counties that aren't cooperative with immigration authorities.

Many local leaders reaffirmed their commitment to protecting undocumented immigrants after Trump issued the order, but Miami-Dade—which has declined since 2013 to indefinitely detain undocumented inmates on ICE’s behalf, citing lack of full reimbursement—is the first major jurisdiction to cave to the demand.

“I want to make sure we don’t put in jeopardy the millions of funds we get from the federal government for a $52,000 issue,” Gimenez told The Miami Herald. “It doesn’t mean that we’re going to be arresting more people. It doesn’t mean that we’re going to be enforcing any immigration laws.”

Miami-Dade, which refused to hold about 100 inmates last year, expects $355 million from the federal government in 2017 for senior, homeless and police services. Not immediately clear was how much of that money could be withheld per the executive order, the Herald reported.

Gimenez is a Republican, and his county and neighboring Monroe County have around 150,000 undocumented immigrants between them, the Miami New Times reported. Miami-Dade never officially declared itself a sanctuary county but was so in practice.

County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, a Democrat, warned against “racial and ethnic profiling” under Trump but sympathized with Gimenez’s effort to preserve the jurisdiction’s budget.

“We are an inclusive county,” Levine Cava told the New Times. "We're going to have to find a way to not jeopardize those who come to this country for freedom.”

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio was quick to criticize Trump’s sanctuary cities policy on Twitter, as well as a subsequent executive order—suspending refugee resettlement for 120 days, barring refugees from Syria indefinitely and halting refugees from seven other Muslim countries temporarily—for eroding constitutional rights.

But elsewhere in the Empire State, smaller cities like Yonkers, White Plains and Mount Vernon were urging caution when going against the immigration executive order.

"We are definitely not a sanctuary jurisdiction based on that description because we do not willfully violate federal law," White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach told The Journal News. "We believe that all our policies and practices are valid under the law, and they are constitutional."

Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas advocated for a clear path to citizenship for immigrants while supporting Trump’s push to punish those that are criminals, The Journal News reported.

On the other side of the country, in California, Fresno Mayor Lee Brand went against the trend of the state’s cities touting sanctuary status. In Sacramento, state lawmakers are drawing up legislation to make California a “sanctuary state,” limiting local law enforcement’s ability to assist the feds.

“I’m not going to make Fresno a sanctuary city because I don’t want to make Fresno ineligible from receiving potentially millions of dollars in infrastructure and other types of projects,” Brand told the Fresno Bee. “My philosophy is to follow the law and to avoid these national culture-war questions.”

Before Trump’s executive order was even announced, Forest Grove, Oregon—a city where a quarter of the 21,000 residents are Latino—saw its council leaders split evenly over the decision to become a sanctuary city.

Councilors opposed called the term too polarizing and cited possible loss of federal grants under Trump among their reasons for rejecting the proposal.

"I think it would have given all of our residents the opportunity to know Forest Grove is an open and accepting community that honors diversity," Mayor Pete Traux told The Oregonian.

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington D.C.

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