The Department of Justice has notified cities nationwide that they have until December 8, 2017, to certify that they are cooperating with federal immigration enforcement efforts or else lose their funding.
The fight is over so-called "sanctuary city" policies, where municipalities all over the country are refusing to help the federal government enforce the country's immigration laws. The Trump administration wants to stop handing out federal law enforcement grants to municipalities that refuse to cooperate with all federal law enforcement investigations, including investigations of people who are in the country illegally.
Advocates of these sanctuary city policies argue that it is unconstitutional for local and state police departments to indefinitely hold suspects in immigration cases. Critics of these policies point to how blanket enforcement bans can result in dangerous illegal alien criminals being put back onto the street.
Federal judges have previously blocked the Trump administration from withholding these sorts of funds, however, the Department of Justice is moving forward and issuing guidance to cities anyway in preparation for winning these court battles.
At risk in Washington, D.C., is around $1.7 million in federal law enforcement grants. The District is currently the only city in the area under scrutiny for its sanctuary policies.
D.C. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton published a tweet responding to the enforcement notice, saying that D.C. "will not be intimidated by the Trump administration. We will continue to protect our immigrant residents as they continue to contribute so much to our city."
However, since Norton is not a voting member of Congress, since Washington, D.C., isn't technically a state, she is actually powerless to directly influence the situation at all.
Which brings up an important distinction of why the administration's demands are much more likely to succeed against the District than other cities. Each and every permanent Washington, D.C., law is subject to congressional approval. Whereas other metropolitan areas have complete home rule, Washington, D.C., relies on Congress to approve statutory changes. There are ways for the D.C. City Council to avoid triggering this oversight, however, these types of "emergency legislation" can only be temporary changes to the statute that must contain sunset provisions. That means that even if the Trump administration is blocked in court from withholding D.C.'s law enforcement grant money, Congress could still technically take action to require the District to comply with federal immigration investigations anyway.
This dynamic has created a unique backdrop to the fight over sanctuary city policies in Washington, D.C. Nevertheless, the District's political leaders took to social media to express their opposition to the Trump administration's policies, uniting around the hashtag #LeaveUsAlone.
Mayor Muriel Bowser defended the District's refusal to cooperate with immigration law by celebrating the city's diversity.
District Attorney General Karl A. Racine pointed to law enforcement priorities and warned cutting off funding would threaten "important public safety programs."
On Wednesday, a federal judge issued a ruling blocking the Trump administration from withholding grant money from Philadelphia over immigration enforcement. However, since that judge's ruling only applies to eastern Pennsylvania, it will not directly influence enforcement in the District of Columbia.
What do you think about this? Let us know in the comment section below!