Split Over Sanctuary Cities Could Shut Down Government


By April 28, Congress must agree to a budget deal to continue operating the federal government.  While this would ordinarily not be a monumental task, some new challenges face Congress in 2017: Their Easter recess eats up time until one week before the budget deadline, and partisan tensions are at an all-time high. U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has already threatened that he will refuse any budget proposal that does not increase defense spending, and multiple Democrats have also indicated that they are willing to shut down the government as well.

Initially, the brouhaha was over the funding of discretionary spending. This spending, which is separate from entitlement spending on Social Security and Medicare, consists of military and civilian agency funding. To avoid deepening the federal deficit, any increase in one sector of discretionary spending would require equal cuts in the other sector. President Donald Trump has insisted that the U.S. will boost defense spending by roughly 10 percent, necessitating equally sharp cuts among all civilian agencies not involved in homeland security.

Democrats have decried Trump’s budget proposal as outlandish and detrimental to poor and working-class citizens. Even Republicans have largely been less than thrilled. Despite the GOP’s traditional love of defense spending, virtually every U.S. Representative and Senator has at least one non-security civilian agency that is important to his or her district. 

But now a new issue arises even thornier than cutting civilian spending, which Democrats have labeled a no-go: Cutting federal funding for “sanctuary cities” that defy federal law. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director, wants any budget resolution to include language that “restrict federal funding grants for cities that do not enforce federal immigration policies.”  Currently, several liberal cities do not cooperate with federal authorities when it comes to reporting the arrests or detainments of undocumented immigrants.

The situation has created strange bedfellows: Liberals, ordinarily no friends of the “states’ rights” and “local control” camps, are suddenly very much opposed to the interference of Washington when it comes to immigration. Conservatives, usually fiscal spendthrifts and law-and-order aficionados, may find it tough to justify paying for Donald Trump’s proposed border wall and allowing police inroads with immigrant communities to erode. 

Currently, police departments in sanctuary cities are defending their non-cooperation with immigration authorities as necessary to reduce crime. Allegedly, despite the notoriety of high-profile crimes committed by illegal immigrants who were released from police custody rather than being turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), sanctuary cities help law enforcement by making immigrants feel comfortable reporting crimes and assisting police.  Liberals argue that cracking down on sanctuary cities will increase crime by emboldening criminals, regardless of their citizenship status, who prey on undocumented immigrants.

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