President Donald Trump has said he’ll withhold billions of dollars in federal funding from cities that won’t get in line with his immigration policy. The big questions now: Can he really defund sanctuary cities? And which cities stand to lose the most if he makes good on his threat?
As much as $27 billion in federal funding is at stake, according to research by American Transparency. Chicago alone could lose out on more than $5 billion in federal grants and other direct payments. But turning off the tap might not be so easy.
For one, there’s the pesky 1oth amendment to the Constitution, which says Washington can’t force states to uphold federal laws. Sanctuary city proponents say it protects cities offering safe harbor to the undocumented. And in the past, the Supreme Court has agreed the federal government can’t coerce state and local governments to act in a certain way by withholding funds, unless the money being held back is germane to a specific issue, Politifact reported. So, the government might be able to withhold law enforcement funds for cities that don’t cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but it might not be able to hold back money for public transit.
More recently, a federal judge in San Francisco blocked a Trump administration order to withhold funding from cities that limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. U.S. District Judge William Orrick issued a temporary ruling that will stay in place while the lawsuit moves forward.
Plus, the billions of dollars cities get from the federal government don’t come from a single source. Money flows into cities for housing, education, transit, cultural programs, and more from different branches of the federal government. Some of it goes directly to city government, but separate agencies and nonprofit organizations also receive funds. Terminating all of those payments would likely be difficult. Complicating matters is there’s no single, clear definition of a sanctuary city.
Let’s take a closer look at which 15 cities Trump could punish the most.
15. Newark, New Jersey
- Federal funding per resident: $733.27
- Total federal funding: $206,741,575
Newark received more than $200 million in 2016 from the federal government, including $70 million for the Newark Public Housing Authority and $59 million for the city’s public schools. But those numbers haven’t stopped city leaders from speaking out against Trump’s threat to cut off sanctuary cities.
Mayor Ras Baraka criticized the president’s executive order and said it was “criminal” to cut funding and “to punish other Americans, to punish the residents of this community, to punish them in terms of housing, in terms of police, in terms of roads, in terms of infrastructure, to punish them because they refuse to cooperate in sending their neighbors away unlawfully.”
In addition to funds for schools, housing, and other programs, the Newark police receive about $921,000 every year, according to American Transparency. (When possible, we’ve noted how much money the local police receive from the federal government, but that might not reflect other federal funds the city receives that go to law enforcement and immigration.) Nineteen percent of the city’s residents are undocumented.
Next we head west …