President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order that “sanctuary cities” will no longer be eligible to receive federal grants — a move New York state’s attorney general Eric Schneiderman called “unconstitutional.”
“Building and maintaining trust between local law enforcement and the communities they bravely serve is vital to ensuring public safety,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Any attempt to bully local governments into abandoning policies that have proven to keep our cities safe is not only unconstitutional, but threatens the safety of our citizens.
“I urge President Trump to revoke this Executive Order right away. If he does not, I will do everything in my power to fight it.”
Other city and state leaders have made similar statements, including California state Sen. Scott Weiner (D), who said Trump is “in for one hell of a fight.” And San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee (D) insisted that “nothing has changed” for the residents of San Francisco.
California state Senator and majority leader Kevin de León, another California state senator and majority leader, said he would not partake in a “campaign of fear.”
“If the new president wants to wage a campaign of fear against innocent families, he can count us out,” he said. “We will not spend a cent or lift a finger to help his actions.”
Democratic Boston Mayor Martin Walsh called Trump’s order — as well as one pertaining to border control — “a direct attack on Boston’s people, Boston’s strength and Boston’s values.”
“If people want to live here, they’ll live here,” he said on Wednesday. “They can use my office. They can use any office in this building.’’
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel confirmed Wednesday night that his city will not budge, either.
“I want to be clear: we’re going to stay a sanctuary city,” he said.
“Sanctuary cities” is a broad term used to described areas that, in general, do not unlawfully hold immigrants simply at the request of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), unless he or she has been charged with a serious crime.
Unlawfully detaining immigrants can easily turn into a violation of the person’s constitutional rights, as demonstrated just this week in Rhode Island, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reported. In 2009 Ada Morales, a Guatemala native — and U.S. citizen — was arrested on an unrelated charge. She was detained even after a judge demanded she be released, based on an ICE request.
In a Tuesday ruling, U.S. District Judge John J. McConnell Jr. said the details of Morales’ detainment “are disturbing on many levels” and “should concern all Americans.” The incident “revealed a dysfunction of constitutional proportion at both the state and federal levels,” McConnell’s opinion states.
Last week, Schneiderman’s office provided local governments and law enforcement agencies with what is described as a “legal roadmap” to protect vulnerable immigrant communities. The policy states local governments can limit participation in federal immigration enforcement activities in several ways, including not holding people who have not been charged with a crime for more than 48 hours, per their Fourth Amendment rights.
Local law enforcement agencies are not required to enforce federal immigration laws or even provide immigration status to ICE or customs officials about suspects in custody, except under limited circumstances.
Trump’s reasoning for enforcing such action has relied heavily on the narrative that immigrants are more likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens. He kicked off his presidential campaign by describing Mexicans as “criminals” and “rapists.” His executive order seems to echo these sentiments.
“Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States,” the order reads. “These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.”
The order also calls for a weekly report that will be posted on the White House website, shaming immigrant crimes and the cities that protect them: “the [secretary of homeland security] shall utilize the Declined Detainer Outcome Report or its equivalent and, on a weekly basis, make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.”
But studies have rejected the narrative that immigrants are more likely to commit crimes and have in fact reached the opposite conclusion. A 2015 study from the American Immigration Council found that not only are immigrants less likely to commit serious crimes or be incarcerated than native-born residents, but high rates of immigration correlate with even lower rates of violent and property crimes.
“This holds true for both legal immigrants and the unauthorized, regardless of their country of origin or level of education,” the research notes. “In other words, the overwhelming majority of immigrants are not ‘criminal’ by any commonly accepted definition of the term. For this reason, harsh immigration policies are not effective in fighting crime.”
Politifact confirmed this finding, citing several sources that reached the same conclusion:
“While Trump’s discourse suggests waves of immigrants equals violence, scholars say studies don’t substantiate that message.
Research on immigrants and crime finds that immigrants are not more likely than U.S.-born individuals to take part in crime, said Christopher P. Salas-Wright, an assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Social Work.
‘Again and again, we see evidence that they are not,’ Salas-Wright said. ‘In fact, it’s the opposite.’”
In some cases, the data to prove Trump’s points simply does not exist. While on the campaign trail, Trump said, without providing evidence, “Thousands of Americans have been killed by illegal immigrants.” His statement was analyzed by Politifact:
“Immigration experts told us Trump’s statement is so vague it is bound to be true.”
Without time or geographic parameters, the statement is just as accurate as saying ‘thousands of Americans have been killed by men,’ said Charis E. Kubrin, a criminology professor at University of California, Irvine.
‘The rate of murder may be lower or higher than other groups, but when we are talking about people, violent crime is never zero,’ said Steven Camarota, director of research at Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank favoring strict immigration policies. ‘By the same token it cannot be thousands every year. But adding up a few years then it has to be in the ‘thousands.’ There are a lot of murders in America and there are a lot illegal immigrants, so the statement has to be true.’”
In another order signed Wednesday, Trump referred to a “recent surge of illegal immigration at the southern border with Mexico.”
However, the number of Mexican immigrants has been declining — down almost 10 percent between 2009 and 2014 — with immigrants from Asia and sub-Saharan Africa on the rise, according to the Pew Research Center’s most recent estimates. In November, Pew estimated there were 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States in 2014, accounting for 3.5 percent of the population, down from 12.2 million in 2007. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 1.3 million are from Asia.
Incidentally, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has been a vocal Trump supporter, in 1996 reiterated that New York is a sanctuary city and publicly defended this decision several times, citing Executive Order 124.
Executive Order 124 states, “No city officer or employee shall transmit information respecting any alien to federal immigration authorities” except under specific circumstances, including if the person is suspected of engaging in criminal activity.