DoJ threatens fund cut off to sanctuary cities

The Department of Justice informed 8 cities and counties as well as the state of California, warning them they would be subject to funding cuts if they don't comply with federal laws related to illegal immigration.

The funds at stake only amount to about $29 million - a small percentage of grant money doled out by the DoJ for law enforcement in those localities. But the federal government is leaving little doubt that they are serious about illegal immigration enforcement and that more cuts could come if there is continued non-compliance with federal law.


Those threatened were: the state of California; New York City; Chicago; Philadelphia; Clark County, Nevada; New Orleans; Miami-Dade County, Florida; and Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. Cook County, Illinois, also received a warning, even though it did not get money from the Justice Department last year.

The jurisdictions have until June 30 to provide evidence to the federal government that they are not violating any laws.

At stake is roughly $29 million in law enforcement aid under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, which helps local governments pay for everything from forensics labs to drug courts.

The grants in question are among the largest handed out under the program, collectively amounting to 11 percent of the $256 million distributed in the last fiscal year.

In a statement, the Justice Department singled out Chicago and New York as two cities that are "crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime," even though New York City is experiencing its lowest crime levels in decades and experts say Chicago's recent spike in violent crime has little to do with illegal immigration.

Several state and local officials responded with defiance to the threat. 

"New York is the safest big city in the country, with crime at record lows in large part because we have policies in place to encourage cooperation between NYPD and immigrant communities," said Seth Stein, a spokesman for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In California, the state Senate approved a bill earlier this month to curb cooperation between police agencies and federal agents seeking to deport illegal immigrants. The measure is now in the state Assembly.

"It has become abundantly clear that Attorney General (Jeff) Sessions and the Trump administration are basing their law enforcement policies on principles of white supremacy - not American values," California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León, a Democrat, said in a statement on Friday.

A spokeswoman for the California Board of State and Community Corrections said some of the federal funding in question went to local communities after emergencies, including San Bernardino after a mass shooting there in 2015.

That's the major problem with cutting funds; the impact will fall on local communities and ordinary people who will be less safe because the politicians refuse to obey federal law. It's what will make congress hesitate to really cut into law enforcement funding for sanctuary cities. 

And that's exactly what sanctuary cities are counting on.

So it's an open question whether Congress or the administration can find ways to punish sanctuary cities without impacting local law enforcement where it is needed. Would local residents who are affected by the cuts vote out their political leaders who are responsible? Not until the funding cuts become so painful that ordinary voters rise up and assert their will on local government.

The DoJ threats to cut funding is a good start, but will barely impact the problem. Defiance is likely to continue until the courts order sanctuary cities to comply.