Trump Admin Calls on Congress to Hold Back Federal Grants to Sanctuary Cities

Omnibus bill must pass to keep government running

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March 13, 2018

The Trump administration has asked Congress to punish California and other states, cities, and localities with so-called "sanctuary" policies that restrict cooperation with the federal government on matters of illegal immigration by withholding federal grants in a must-pass spending bill that requires action by next week to keep the government running.

A government official on Tuesday told reporters traveling with President Trump to California on Air Force One that the House version of the spending bill already strips out Justice Department and Homeland Security Department grants for California and other sanctuary areas.

"It's a major threat to national security," the official said of sanctuary policies according to a pool report. "We are 100 percent committed to challenging sanctuary cities. We will be successful."

Rep. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.), who chairs the conservative House Freedom Caucus, has pushed the idea of withholding federal grants for California and other sanctuary areas.

"Why should Congress continue pouring taxpayer dollars into cities that defy federal immigrant law?" he tweeted Monday. "That shouldn't happen in America—a nation of law and order. @POTUS is right—Congress can withhold federal grants in the upcoming omnibus. It's time to #DefundSanctuaryCities."

Senate Democrats will likely balk at any effort to include similar language punishing California and other municipalities in the omnibus appropriations bill. Still, after Democrats lost the government shutdown war in January because of a standoff over a deal to permanently resolve the legal status of "dreamer" immigrants, they could be more reluctant to draw any firm lines in the sand.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) on Tuesday said Democrats do not want to fund Trump's border wall in the omnibus spending bill but did not rule out providing money for other Trump immigration priorities.

"I don't think the wall is border security," Schumer said, according to a Reuters report. "And we will fight for real border security—not fake border security—plain and simple. Our view on the wall as something that is ineffectual and expensive has not changed."

A Trump administration official told reporters that the wall will save "far more money than it will cost," citing estimates that illegal immigration costs the country tens of billions of dollars a year in terms of money spent on law enforcement efforts to fight drugs, as well as to provide education and social services to illegal immigrants.

"The reality is how can you afford not to build the wall?" the official asked.

Update: Trump blasted California's policies during an event near the border on Tuesday.

"In the upcoming omnibus budget bill, Congress must fund the border wall and prohibit grants to sanctuary jurisdictions that threaten the security of our country and the people of our country," Trump said during his visit to the San Diego border with Tijuana, Mexico to view the border-wall prototypes his administration commissioned.

In another confrontation with California’s Democratic officials on their turf, Trump criticized the state’s "sanctuary" policies, which he argued "put the entire nation at risk."

"They’re the best friend of the criminal. That’s what exactly is happening. The criminals take refuge in these sanctuary cities, and it’s very dangerous for our police and enforcement folks," he said.

"The smugglers, the traffickers, the gang members—they’re all taking refuge, and I think a lot of people in California understand that," he said.

Last week, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state over three "sanctuary" laws it passed in 2017 that limit government officials’ and employers’ ability to communicate with federal immigrant agents and officials. The lawsuit argues that the federal government, not states, have the authority to control the nation’s borders and immigration policy.