The Trump Administration and the nation’s “sanctuary cities” escalated their dispute in April with threats by the Administration to cut off funds to the cities and a court ruling that – at least for now – prevents the White House from carrying out that threat. The Justice Department sent letters to officials in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other jurisdictions that limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The letters threatened officials in those sanctuary cities with the loss of federal grant money if they do not start fully cooperating with federal immigration authorities by June 30th.

If the Administration were to cut off funding to sanctuary cities, California would stand to lose $18.2 million. New York would lose $4.3 million, Chicago would lose a $2.3 million grant, and Philadelphia would lose $1.7 million. Still, according to the New York Times, those dollar amounts are relatively small compared with the overall budgets of the jurisdictions that received letters from the Justice Department.

WHAT MAKES A CITY A “SANCTUARY” CITY?

Sanctuary cities do not report to immigration authorities when immigrants are arrested or released – even if those immigrants are undocumented or otherwise in violation of federal immigration laws. The Administration contends that sanctuary cities allow dangerous criminals back on the street. The Justice Department cited the rising murder rate in Chicago –  and recent gang murders in New York – as the consequences of a “soft on crime” stance by the sanctuary cities.

In response, sanctuary city leaders say that turning local police officers into immigration agents puts their cities at risk by eroding the trust that is needed to get people to report crimes and to have confidence in their police departments. Lawsuits aimed at preventing any loss of federal funds to sanctuary cities have been filed by the City of San Francisco, the City of Richmond (California), Santa Clara County (California), the City of Seattle, and the Massachusetts cities of Lawrence and Chelsea.

WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THE FIRST LAWSUITS WERE HEARD?

The San Francisco and Santa Clara County lawsuits were the first to be heard in a federal court, and on April 25th, a federal judge in San Francisco blocked any attempt – at least for now – by the administration to withhold funding from sanctuary cities. U.S. District Judge William Orrick issued a preliminary injunction against the Administration’s plan to cut off funds. The judge concluded, “Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the president disapproves.”

Thus, any cuts by the Administration to the funding of sanctuary cities violates the Constitution because it undermines both federalism and the separation of powers, according to Judge Orrick. The judge’s injunction will remain in effect while the various lawsuits work their way through the courts. Litigation is also still pending in several courts around the country regarding the “travel ban” ordered by the Trump administration and blocked – at least for now – by the courts.

IN A TIME OF CONFUSION, WHERE CAN IMMIGRANTS GET SOUND ADVICE?

During this tumultuous period of rapid change and legal confusion regarding immigration, if you are an immigrant who is already in the United States, if you want to enter the United States, or if you are a U.S.-based employer who hires immigrants, you can rely on the advice of an experienced Las Vegas immigration lawyer who routinely deals with all aspects of U.S. immigration law.

As the courts hand down various rulings and those rulings are appealed, the legal situation regarding immigration will likely remain unclear for months into the future. Until the legal disputes regarding travel bans and sanctuary cities are definitively resolved, an experienced Las Vegas immigration lawyer will be able to offer the legal advice and services that immigrants, their employers in the U.S., and their families will need.