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Trump Suggests Withholding Funding From States with Sanctuary Cities

President-elect Donald Trump visit's the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for their inaugural wreath-laying ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Jan. 19, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alicia Brand/released)
President-elect Donald Trump visit's the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for their inaugural wreath-laying ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Jan. 19, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alicia Brand/released)

President Donald Trump on Tuesday floated the idea of withholding coronavirus aid from sanctuary cities.

After several rounds of emergency relief from Congress, states and local governments are still waiting on Capitol Hill to support them. Businesses, hospitals, and taxpayers have already received attention. The CARES Act was never expected to be the final support from Washington and after governors complained about perceived neglect, legislators said relief would come in the next spending package.

Sanctuary Cities Back in the Limelight

However, President Donald Trump on Tuesday floated an idea about imposing a condition on receiving bailout money: end sanctuary cities or don’t take federal money, according to Newsweek. Previously, both Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R–Ky., opposed the idea and the president said he wasn’t interested in compensating for “bad management.” 

If a plan to bailout states is to receive Trump’s blessing, Republicans “want certain things also, including sanctuary city adjustments, because we have so many people in sanctuary cities, which I don’t even think are popular, even by radical left folks,” he said.

Sanctuary cities have been a hot button with the president since he took office. In the first days of his administration, he signed an executive order banning state and local governments from federal grants if they refused to abide by federal immigration enforcement policies, Newsweek reported.

“What’s happening is people are being protected that shouldn’t be protected and a lot of bad things are happening with sanctuary cities,” Trump said.

Although a federal judge in Los Angeles declared the order unconstitutional, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals eventually allowed the order to stand with the Trump administration awarding more points for grants to cities with stricter immigration policies.

Proponents of sanctuary cities argue they facilitate greater cooperation from immigrants who might not otherwise work with law enforcement over fear of deportation.

Trump Versus New York, Again

New York currently leads the nation in both COVID-19 cases and fatalities. It also has a strong, pro-immigrant policies across at the state level. New York and the Trump administration have butted heads over immigration most recently In February when the Department of Homeland Security began refusing applications for the Trusted Traveler programs by New York residents.

The federal agency demanded access to New York’s driver license database, but the state refused because it allows undocumented immigrants to receive licenses. New York Attorney General Letitia James called it “political retribution” for failing to accommodate Trump’s demands. She once again had some words for the president.

“President Trump’s threat to hold coronavirus funding hostage to cities and states across the country are the latest in his efforts to push a sinister political agenda that only aims to punish us all—citizens and non-citizens alike.” 

James said her state is “proud of its status as a sanctuary state” and vowed to continue fighting for the right of immigrants.

The American Civil Liberties Union also tweeted its support saying, “We cannot allow the Trump administration to exploit a public health crisis to further their anti-immigrant agenda.”

McConnell Comes Around

Simply bringing the Republican Party around to the idea of a state bailout has taken time. After the most relief package, McConnell said he preferred states filing for bankruptcy rather than bail them out, NBC News reported.

“Yeah, I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route,” McConnell said. “It saves some cities. And there’s no good reason for it not to be available. My guess is their first choice would be for the federal government to borrow money from future generations to send it down to them now so they don’t have to do that. That’s not something I’m going to be in favor of.”

The Senate leader cited the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which already provided $150 billion for states. Some governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo, and congresspeople have argued that isn’t enough. 

Sen. Rob Portman, R–Ohio, said that local governments do not have enough to operate with the loss of tax revenue. Another Republican, Rep. Peter King of New York, called McConnell “the Marie Antoinette of the Senate” for his comments.

McConnell has shifted his position to be more open to funding states and local governments in the next bill, CNN reported.

“But we need to make sure that we achieve something that will go beyond simply sending out money,” McConnell said. He wants liability protection to be included in alongside funding to protect public officials from lawsuits. Such a provision could also be extended to private businesses and healthcare workers.

“The whole country will be afraid to go back to work… if businesses are afraid they’re going to be sued constantly,” he said.

Daniel Davis

Daniel Davis is Managing Editor for The Osage County Herald-Chronicle in Kansas and also covers International news for Inside Over, a Milan-based global affairs publication. He graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Outside of writing, he enjoys photography and one day hopes to return to video production. Learn more about him at his website danieldavis.la.

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