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In an executive order signed Wednesday, Trump directed the Department of Homeland Security to find ways to defund cities and jurisdictions out of step with his immigration priorities. That action — which could cost sanctuary cities including Washington, New York and Los Angeles millions of dollars — is the latest in a series of moves where Trump has appeared willing to step on state-level or municipal prerogatives.
In the scuffle, U.S. mayors have emerged as key players in the resistance to Trump’s agenda.
“Cities know how important local control is, because we are in touch with the people we represent most closely. This is a president who’s been clear that he wants to centralize as much authority as he can in himself,” Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said Wednesday. “That is dangerous for our democracy, I believe, and he is using the levers of our democracy to centralize his authority.”
At the center of the sanctuary city debate is a disagreement over whether local police officers should be required to help immigration officials enforce federal immigration laws. Many liberal mayors, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and New York City’s Bill De Blasio, have argued that requiring local police departments to assist immigration agents with deportations could sow distrust among immigrant populations. It could also discourage undocumented victims or witnesses from coming forward to report crimes.
“This is a federalism issue,” said Jorge Elorza (D), the mayor of Providence, R.I., who is the son of immigrants. “The idea of local control is deeply embedded in American history, and what we have now is a very aggressive attempt by the federal government to commandeer our local police departments to become immigration agents.”
He vowed “massive and aggressive lawsuits,” a resistance echoed by several local leaders.
Kevin de Leon, the Democratic president pro tempore of the California state Senate, said the state legislature is prepared to “explore all of our legal options” to fight the order.
“Singling out states and cities with punitive threats and withholding federal resources as today’s order on sanctuary cities does is unconstitutional,” de Leon said. “It’s not the job of our local and county and state law enforcement to turn the cogs on President Trump’s deportation machine.”