Thursday, April 27, 2017

Clarifying the "sanctuary cities" confusion

President Trump has, once again, created public confusion by misconstruing some issue about the law or the courts.   He has lashed out at the judge who put a hold on his executive order threatening cities that do not cooperate with the federal immigration authorities.

I did not have it quite right myself in the previous post, "More bad news for Trump."  First, the U.S. legal code does require that local governments cooperate in providing information to the federal law enforcement.   But Trump conflates that with providing detainees themselves when he cites that same code to falsely back up this statement put out by the Trump administration:

"Sanctuary cities, like San Francisco, block their jails from turning over criminal aliens to Federal authorities for deportation.   These cities are engaged in dangerous and unlawful nullification of Federal law in an attempt to erase our borders."    [Wrong.]

Both sentences in that statement are false.  What cities are doing, as discussed on NPR by the mayor of Austin, TX, is this:  They will of course respond to the federal request to turn over detainees if the federal law enforcement has obtained a warrant for that person.   But what they refuse to do, and do not have the resources to do, is to act as a collecting/warehousing station for possible deportees simply because they are undocumented foreigners.

Another important factor for the cities' police forces is that routinely screening for documents or detaining people they would otherwise release is not only unaffordable, it harms police-community relations by making immigrants afraid to go to the police for help or to cooperate with police efforts to keep peace.  In addition, as affirmed by the judge, it is unconstitutional to detain someone beyond a limited time period without charges or a warrant.

Another clarification:   there have been three small grants made to some cities (not San Francisco) that have a clause requiring cooperation with federal immigration requests.   It is only those three grants that the feds have any right to threaten withholding funds for non-compliance;  and they already have enforcement authority written into those grants.  The total for those three grants is less than $3 million.  The judge's ruling says they can't withhold funds for other, unrelated programs that did not have this prior stipulation.

As with the ruling on Trump's immigration bans, this judge also referred to public statements as germane in interpreting the intended extent of executive orders.   This is from Judge Orrick's ruling:
   ". . . . [I]f there was doubt about the scope of the Order, the President and Attorney General have erased it with their public comments.   The President has called it a 'a weapon' to use against jurisdictions that disagree with his preferred policies of immigration . . . ."

Trump's predictable reaction to being thwarted is to demean the judge and threaten to "break up" the 9th Circuit Court.   Donald Trump still doesn't get it.  He can disagree with a court decision;   but we have three co-equal branches to our government.  He gets to nominate federal judges.   But he does not get to dictate their decisions, nor does he get to retaliate if they don't go his way.


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