Trump says he might use pandemic relief funding to extort so-called sanctuary cities

Trump says he might use pandemic relief funding to extort so-called sanctuary cities
President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks during a coronavirus (COVID-19) update briefing Tuesday, April 14, 2020, in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

Oh, not this shit again. Impeached president Donald Trump on Tuesday returned to attacking so-called sanctuary cities, but with a pandemic quid pro quo twist (I guess he really learned that lesson, right Susan Collins?): now he’s threatening to condition relief funding on local policies limiting cooperation with federal deportation agents. “Now, if it's COVID-related, I guess we can talk about it, but we'd want certain things also, including sanctuary city adjustments because we have so many people in sanctuary cities,” Trump claimed.

“Adjustments” probably means “rescinding,” because the man can’t stand anything that remotely humanizes brown people. But can he do that? No, tweeted immigration policy expert Aaron Reichlin-Melnick. “To be clear, as multiple federal courts have already ruled, Congress has to specifically give the president the authority to condition grants on sanctuary city status in order to do this—and since they haven't, he can't.” But will he try? That’s another story.

Trump also maybe confused his own very clear contempt for U.S. sanctuary cities with the reality around these policies, falsely claiming he didn’t think they’re popular, “even by radical-left folks. Because what's happening is people are being protected that shouldn't be protected and a lot of bad things are happening with sanctuary cities.”

Immigrant rights advocacy group America’s Voice pointed out in 2017 that these policies are actually pretty popular among police departments. “In order for the police to be most effective at their jobs, they need to be able to work with immigrants who report crimes, give tips, or testify as witnesses,” the group said. “In order for immigrants to trust the police, they need to know that an interaction with law enforcement won’t lead to their deportation.”

And that makes communities safer for all. “Research backs this up; one analysis has shown that sanctuary cities see 15% less crime than non-sanctuary cities,” the group continued. “Another found that two-thirds of the cities that had the highest jumps in murder rates in 2016 were not sanctuary cities—in fact, they are the opposite, generally eager to hold immigrants for ICE pick-up and detention.”

But, again, just because Trump can’t do something doesn’t mean he and henchman Stephen Miller won’t try. They’ve already exploited a pandemic that has killed nearly 60,000 Americans to, in just a just a couple of examples, deport children who are supposed to be protected by U.S. law, and implement draconian immigration changes that have been the stuff of anti-immigrant leaders’ dreams.

“We cannot allow the Trump administration to exploit a public health crisis to further their anti-immigrant agenda,” the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted in response to Trump threatening to hold funding hostage. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, House Oversight Committee chair, tweeted a simple and concise “no.” No word on this extortion threat from Sen. Collins, however.

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