Back in September, while giving his highly anticipated speech on immigration in Phoenix, Arizona, then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump promised to block federal funding for so-called sanctuary cities—a term for that have vowed not to criminalize undocumented immigrants based on citizenship status alone.
“Block funding for sanctuary cities … no more funds,” Trump said in Phoenix. “Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars, and we will work with Congress to pass legislation to protect those jurisdictions that do assist federal authorities.”
As CNN reported, broadly speaking, a sanctuary city has “policies or laws that limit how much local law enforcement and government agencies can work with federal authorities on immigration matters.” Last year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Sarah Saldaña told Congress that more than 200 state and local jurisdictions have policies that call for not honoring ICE detention requests. According to Politico, these jurisdictions believe such requests “are unconstitutional and foster mistrust between immigrant communities and police.”
Since the election, mayors from across the country have stepped forward to reassure undocumented immigrants that they are safe in their cities. An existing ICE program, however, means that may not necessarily be the case.
Priority Enforcement Program Complicates Sanctuary Cities
An ICE policy known as the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) severely complicates the narrative of sanctuary cities. PEP is basically a continuation of the now-defunct, highly controversial Secure Communities (S-Comm) program put into place by President George W. Bush and escalated under President Obama, whose administration oversaw record numbers of deportations as a direct result of the program.