Proposed federal budget slips in punishment for 'sanctuary cities'

FILE: Maya Casillas, 7 (R), joins immigrant rights groups during a vigil to protest against President Donald Trump's crackdown on
FILE: Maya Casillas, 7 (R), joins immigrant rights groups during a vigil to protest against President Donald Trump's crackdown on "sanctuary cities" outside Los Angeles City Hall on January 25, 2017. Trump's proposed federal budget contains language that aims to change federal immigration law so that local and state police are compelled to comply with immigration agents.

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Buried in President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget is language that aims to cut funds to local and state governments where law enforcement doesn't fully comply with holds and other requests by immigration agents.

The budget language would place conditions on grants from the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of Justice. In Los Angeles, these grants add up to the tens of millions of dollars, according to a back-of-the-envelope calculation from documents provided by city officials on Wednesday. The grants help pay for things like port security and community policing programs.

The proposed federal budget reads that either federal department may condition grants "related to immigration, national security, law enforcement, or preventing, preparing for, protecting against or responding to acts of terrorism."

Like the rest of the president's budget proposal, the sanctuary city language would have to be approved by Congress in order to come to pass.

If passed as is, it would compel law enforcement to comply with certain conditions, such as holding immigrants in custody for immigration agents. Many so-called “sanctuary” cities and counties refuse to hold individuals longer than necessary at the behest of immigration officials seeking to deport them.

“If the budget were to seek to compel jurisdictions like ours to honor those requests in that way, the budget would violate, in that respect, the constitution," City Attorney Mike Feuer said. He said federal courts have established that holding someone longer than necessary can constitute a civil rights violation, exposing cities to lawsuits.

He said among the grants his office receives from the Department of Justice is funding for a community initiative that helps reduce recidivism among nonviolent offenders.

Immigrant advocates said the budget language is a backdoor attempt to change laws that have so far been in the administration's way. 

In April, a federal judge ruled against President Trump's executive order seeking to de-fund sanctuary cities, saying such conditions could only be imposed by Congress.

"This would create a federal law that would say sanctuary policies are unlawful," said attorney Jessica Bansal with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network in Los Angeles.

John Berry, a Tea Party activist in Redlands, said he hadn't seen the fine print in the budget, but agrees with the spirit of such a proposal.

“Sanctuary cities should not get dime one from the feds if they don’t comply with the immigration law," he said.