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The White House is emphasizing that it is considering changes to “sanctuary” cities as part of the next round of stimulus, arguing that funding shouldn’t provide relief for what officials described as “bad Democratic governance.”
“In terms of the types of things [President Trump] wants to see in this Phase 4, I don’t want to get ahead of the negotiations, but I do want to emphasize that he has mentioned sanctuary cities,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said recently, referring to the next stage of stimulus. “This is a really important issue that has cost American lives.”
Sanctuary jurisdictions, that limit local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities in an effort to shield illegal immigrants from deportation, have long been in the crosshairs of the Trump administration.
Pro-immigrant activists and many Democrats claim that the policies make communities safer by encouraging illegal immigrants who are victims or witnesses of crime to come forward. But the Trump administration has pointed to heinous crimes committed by illegal immigrants who have been sprung from custody — and has sought to pull funds from such jurisdictions.
Trump’s recent objections appear to be more about alleged financial mismanagement connected to the policy — possibly because many sanctuary states and cities will often grant public services and funding to illegal immigrants.
Democrats have called for at least $500 billion to be included for relief to state governments as part of the next stimulus package, something that has brought concern from Republicans that it could be an excuse to bail out states for past mismanagement on issues such as pensions and health care.
“We'd have to talk about things like sanctuary cities, as an example,” Trump said last week in the Oval Office. "I think sanctuary cities is something [that] has to be brought up, where people that are criminals are protected. They're protected from prosecution. I think that has to be done. I think it's one of the problems that the states have.”
“I don't even think they know they have a problem, but they have a big problem with it, the sanctuary city situation. We'd have to talk about a lot of different things. But we're certainly open to talking, but it would really have to be COVID-related, not related for mismanagement over a long time, over a long period of time,” he said.
He also mentioned it at a business roundtable on Wednesday, suggesting aid should be withheld unless there are changes to sanctuary policies.
"I don't think you should have sanctuary cities if they get that kind of aid," he said. "You know, if you're going to get aid to the cities and states of the kind of numbers you're talking about, billions of dollars, I don't think you should have sanctuary cities."
The financial aspect was something McEnany emphasized on Friday.
“The president has said, ‘Look, I will certainly look to consider helping states who have coronavirus reasons for the financial situation they find themselves in,’ but he doesn’t want this to be an excuse for decades and decades of bad Democrat governance that have run some of these states into a financial predicament.”
The Trump administration has made border security and immigration restriction a core part of its response to the coronavirus effort, from placing travel bans on countries like China and the European Union to turning away illegal immigrants and asylum seekers at the border.
Democrats, however, have been pressuring the administration to include some form of relief for those in the country illegally in the next round of stimulus. The initial round of stimulus checks went only to those with a Social Security number — something that excludes illegal immigrants, who are not eligible for a number.