Defunding Sanctuary Cities


  • The Trump administration has threatened to defund sanctuary cities in an executive order signed in late January.
  • Sanctuary cities: communities that refuse to work with immigration and customs enforcement officials in detaining illegal immigrants.


It does… Grant money from the federal government goes toward innovative programs in the criminal justice field, including an initiative in San Francisco to help young adults facing charges or who have been convicted pull their lives together. Defunding cities based on this issue could worsen crime or defund policy initiatives.

It doesn’t… “Yes California” has claimed California could survive without federal funding. If the state became its own nation, Californians would keep federal tax money in the state. Those tax dollars could increase California’s budget immensely considering the state has paid more in federal taxes than it has received in federal payouts every year since 1995.

  • DEFUND – “They are breaking the law”

    • It’s the law:  Local police are required to inform the federal government when they have an illegal immigrant in custody, even if he or she has not been convicted of a crime.
    • Previous policy: Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that the policy is consistent with the DOJ’s Office of Justice program’s guidance that was issued last summer under the Obama administration.
    • Foreign issues are federal issues: Proponents cite Arizona v. United states (2012), which ruled “the removal process is to the discretion of the Federal Government because it touches on foreign relations and must be made with one voice.”
  • SUPPORT – “States should govern themselves”

    • Redundant legislation:  The House passed a bill in 2015 to prevent sanctuary cities from receiving a federal grant directly related to immigration.
    • Supreme Court precedent: South Dakota v. Dole ruled that funding can only be withheld if it is relevant to the federal interest in the project. Cities, counties and states with sanctuary policies get federal money from dozens of different departments not related to immigration.



  • There’s no legal definition of sanctuary cities, so how will the government discern which cities qualify as sanctuaries?
  • Will defunding these cities reduce police forces who keep cities safe?
  • Cities like Chicago have different laws regarding reporting illegal immigrants to the federal government – Will other cities adopt similar policies?