States Cracking Down Hard on Sanctuary City Policies

President Trump was recently handed another suspicious legal defeat when a federal court blocked his executive order calling on the Justice Department to yank grant money from sanctuary cities, but an overview of recent state-level legislative activity shows that merely by putting these jurisdictions under the spotlight, Trump is rapidly changing the lay of the land.

Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a complete ban on sanctuary cities, and at least 32 other states have similar legislation in the works. Mississippi, Georgia, and Indiana have already passed laws that will, in theory, punish any cities or public institutions for harboring illegal immigrants.

There is no legal definition for what constitutes a “sanctuary city,” but the term is generally applied to cities that refuse to fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities. In specific context, this usually means local jail officials are forbidden from notifying ICE about an undocumented prisoner and barred from detaining such a prisoner, even if federal authorities issue a request.

As a candidate, Trump used the tragedy of Kate Steinle, a San Francisco woman murdered by an oft-deported illegal immigrant, to highlight the dangers these policies pose to the general public.

In a major speech on immigration in September, he said, “We will block funding for sanctuary cities. We will end the sanctuary cities that have resulted in so many needless deaths. Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars, and we will work with Congress to pass legislation to protect those jurisdictions that do assist federal authorities.”

In the wake of the president’s efforts, the number of states cracking down on sanctuary cities has skyrocketed. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 18 states considered anti-sanctuary laws in 2016 while only four states proposed them the year prior.

The efforts have met significant pushback, but it’s quickly becoming clear that the defenders of these policies do not have the facts on their side. In an op-ed written to oppose the new Texas law, four sheriffs – including Sally Hernandez of Travis County – wrote: “Immigrants who are here are significantly less likely to commit crimes. In fact, FBI crime statistics have found that labeled ‘sanctuary’ cities experience lower rates of all crime types, including homicides.”

That would be a powerful argument.

PolitiFact, however, concluded: “There’s no such FBI report.”

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