On Wednesday, January 25, amidst a bevy of executive orders, President Trump signed one particular order promising to withhold federal dollars from “sanctuary jurisdictions.” The order, which according to the White House Briefing Room, is officially titled Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, states that “the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, by no later than one year after the date of the executive order, ensure that sanctuary jurisdictions are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary.”
To unpack the provisions of this order, one must first consider the meaning of a “sanctuary city,” as defined by the president’s administration, legal scholars, and immigration officials. Since the term does not necessarily have a set definition, it is important to consider all perspectives. The executive order, for one, leaves it to the secretary of Homeland Security to designate “sanctuary jurisdictions” based on whether they allow local officials to share people’s immigration status with the federal government.
Based on a 1996 law prohibiting localities from withholding such information, the Trump administration believes sanctuary cities to be clear violators of the law. But, long before the issuance of the executive order, there has been much contention surrounding these claims. According to Barry Friedman, a constitutional law scholar who runs the Policing Project at NYU, “The federal government can’t demand that state officials or local officials do their work.”