An immigration attorney says Congress needs to craft its appropriations laws more clearly in order to ensure that the Justice Department can legally withhold funds from "sanctuary" entities.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that President Trump's executive order punishing sanctuary cities by withholding money is unconstitutional. Mr. Trump, said the court, tried to do Congress's job when his administration added new conditions to Justice Department grants by requiring cities and counties to cooperate with immigration authorities.
Writing for the majority in the 2-1 ruling, Chief Judge Sidney Thomas stated: "Absent congressional authorization, the administration may not redistribute or withhold properly appropriated funds in order to effectuate its own policy goals."
Art Arthur, a resident fellow in law and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), is of the mind that the issue is one on which the Supreme Court is eventually going to have to rule.
"But in the interim, Congress needs to craft its appropriation laws more clearly in order to ensure that the Justice Department can withhold funds from states and localities not in compliance with federal laws related to immigration enforcement," he argues.
"If Congress speaks more clearly on this – and quite frankly, the courts have provided direction to them about how to do that – they should be able to give the president [and] the attorney general the authority to withhold those funds."
None of the current cases related to sanctuary policies have reached the Supreme Court.
The Trump administration says sanctuary jurisdictions allow dangerous criminals back on the street. San Francisco and other sanctuary cities say turning local police into immigration officers erodes the trust needed to get people to report crime.