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Trump threatens sanctuary cities like Philly with loss of federal funds

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The city could stand to lose millions if President Trump’s plan pushes through congress

On Wednesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sean Spicer announced that President Trump planned to sign two immigration-related executive orders, including one that would strip federal funding “strip federal grant money from sanctuary states and cities.”

“The American people will no longer be forced to subsidize this disregard for our laws,” said Spicer.

This executive order could potentially mean that these cities will lose millions, if not billions, of dollars in federal funding. For Philly, this means more than $400 million is on the line. Here’s an explainer on how Trump’s move could play out in Philadelphia.

What makes Philly a sanctuary city?

Sanctuary cities like Philadelphia essentially refuse to cooperate with federal enforcement of immigration laws. In other words, undocumented immigrants are given sanctuary in the city and largely sheltered from deportation. More than 360 U.S. counties fall under this category, including 39 cities, according to a report from the New York Times. In Philly specifically, the executive order states:

Executive Order 5-16 states that city authorities will not cooperate with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests for undocumented citizens who are arrested and would have otherwise been released from custody, unless the individual has committed a first or second degree felony involving violence. This executive order also rescinds Executive Order 7-15 (Policy Regarding U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency Detainer and Notification Requests in Instances of Terrorism or Violence).

How long has Philly been a sanctuary city?

Most recently, Mayor Jim Kenney restored Philly’s status as a sanctuary city on his first day in office in January 2016. Kenney signed the executive order a month after the former Mayor Michael Nutter had reversed course and stripped the city of its sanctuary status. In a recent Pew survey, 58 percent of Philadelphians said they were in favor of the city’s re-instated sanctuary status.

How much money does Philly get from the federal government as a result?

According to most recent data available, the city received $408 million in federal funding in the 2015 fiscal year, reports Philly Mag. It is not yet clear how much of that money would be stripped with Trump’s executive order, but much of the funding is tied to public safety programs, according to the Inquirer.

An e-mail that Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations sent out late this afternoon specified how much federal funding Philly’s various housing programs receive each year:

Philadelphia receives $38.8 million each year in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), $8.4 million for the HOME program, $3.5 million in Emergency Solutions grants, and $7.3 million for the Housing Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program.

What does the executive order say?

It’s still very vague, but as of right now it sounds like the Attorney General and Secretary can determine whether a city qualifies as a sanctuary status or not.


(a) In furtherance of this policy, the Attorney General and the Secretary, in their discretion and to the extent consistent with law, shall ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 (sanctuary jurisdictions) are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary. The Secretary has the authority to designate, in his discretion and to the extent consistent with law, a jurisdiction as a sanctuary jurisdiction. The Attorney General shall take appropriate enforcement action against any entity that violates 8 U.S.C. 1373, or which has in effect a statute, policy, or practice that prevents or hinders the enforcement of Federal law.

What does Mayor Kenney have to say about all this?

Today the mayor told reporters that he isn’t going to “speculate about the impact on Philadelphia” until Trump gives more specifics, the Inquirer reported. In addition, Kenney has no plans to remove Philly’s status as a sanctuary city. He said as much when Trump was elected president in November, too.