This week from Monday morning to Friday at noon, immigration officials conducted raids in at least six states, arresting hundreds of undocumented immigrants.
Though officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) say the raids were "routine," their size and scope reflect new rules under President Trump's recent executive order. The order, "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States," significantly expands how we enforce immigration laws domestically. (It's separate from another controversial immigration order that banned entry from seven Muslim-majority countries.)
For example, these raids seem to have targeted people with and without criminal records, which makes them different from similar actions under President Obama.
ICE confirmed that raids took place in New York, California, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina and South Carolina. Activists also documented raids of "unusual intensity" in Florida, Kansas, Texas and Virginia.
Why is it important?
These raids are the first hint at how the federal government will enforce this new executive order. The order gives officials the power to cast a much wider net than they could under President Obama—who in turn deported more people than any other president before him.
The order also outlines severe measures against "sanctuary jurisdictions," saying that "jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply" will not be eligible for nearly $27 billion in federal funds. But this is much more complicated than it might seem: there are many ways to define what are commonly called "sanctuary cities," and many different regulations and responsibilities that support these cities' behavior.
The controversy over sanctuary cities gets to the core of an amorphous debate about immigration and enforcement. After undocumented immigrants are already living in the U.S., do we choose who can stay? Who enforces that decision?
Much of the debate is around how long local jails will hold undocumented immigrants after they would normally be released—but it isn't local police's responsibility to enforce federal law. How should cities weigh cooperating with federal law versus what they think is important for local public safety?
Should sanctuary cities comply with President Trump's executive order?
Local police are responsible for local public safety, not enforcing Trump's deportation agenda. From immigration expert David Martin: "with small exceptions, no federal law mandates that states or localities directly aid ICE in enforcement."
The term "sanctuary city" applies to a huge number jurisdictions with different state and local enforcement agencies (SLEAs). As Martin notes, "at one end are SLEAs that refuse nearly all support and communication with DHS about persons thought to be unlawfully present, even if the person has committed serious crimes. At the far end of the “sanctuary” spectrum are jurisdictions that won’t keep a person in detention beyond the end of their local sentence to allow for ICE to pick them up (ICE sometimes requests this, for up to 48 hours) unless ICE pays the full additional cost."
The amount of variety here shows one important fact: how they cooperate is up to the states.
State and local leaders are rightly pushing back. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a federal lawsuit claiming the order violates the Tenth Amendment. In her words, "we are all safer when everyone, including undocumented immigrants, feel safe reporting crimes. We are all healthier when every resident has access to public health programs. We are all smarter and economically stronger when every child attends school.”
Sanctuary cities are violating federal law at their residents' expense.
In 2015, a woman named Kathryn Steinle was murdered in San Francisco by an undocumented man who had been deported five times. The man remained in the U.S. because San Francisco did not notify federal authorities, who stood ready to deport him, when releasing him from a previous prison sentence.
Examples of lapses in our enforcement of immigration rules aren't scare tactics, they're lessons in why agencies must work together to enforce reasonable rules that already exist. This executive order expands the scope of rules that are already there. If states choose not to comply, they should also be willing to face the full financial consequences—and their residents should be aware of how that decision affects them.
Sanctuary cities place a financial burden on their legal residents in several ways. Long before this executive order, states imposed costs on their residents by funding public services for legal and illegal residents alike. Now, sanctuary cities are risking a total of nearly $27 billion dollars—much-needed money that already goes to benefit their residents. A study in Forbes recently found that "on average, the cost of lost federal funding for a family of four residing in one of the 106 sanctuary cities is $1,810 – or $454 per person." This is not what is best for the legal residents of a sanctuary city.
- The executive order itself, "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States"
- "Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States. These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic."
- Vox's annotated version of the executive order
- "With small exceptions, no federal law mandates that states or localities directly aid ICE in enforcement. For example, an ICE detainer, which requests notification of release and up to 48 hours of additional detention to allow ICE pickup, is, by ICE’s own analysis, merely a request, which the state or local law enforcement agency may ignore. Noncooperation can certainly be critiqued as a matter of policy, but it is rarely a clear violation of federal law."
- The Washington Post on this week's raids
- "Some activists in Austin and Los Angeles suggested that the raids might be retaliation for those cities' "sanctuary city" policies. A government aide familiar with the raids said it is possible that the predominantly daytime operations — a departure from the Obama administration's night raids — meant to "send a message to the community that the Trump deportation force is in effect.""
- President Trump's other executive order on immigration, often called the "Muslim Ban"
- "The order may violate the Constitution, on the grounds that it amounts to religious discrimination and that it prevents due process in some cases. It has been called a Muslim "ban"—a disputed term used repeatedly by Trump himself on Twitter. It may also violate immigration law (namely the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act) and U.N. treaties for the same reasons."