Are Sanctuary Cities Justified or Should Local Jurisdictions Assist Federal Immigration Enforcement Efforts?

Recent political focus on sanctuary cities has sparked debate over undocumented immigrants and enforcement of federal immigration policy. A number of local governments have limited their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement authorities, and proponents of such jurisdictions argue that in addition to constitutional concerns, victims of crime as well as witnesses will not report incidents to local police for fear of deportation. Others counter that the presence of undocumented immigrants breed criminal activity within communities and that federal mandates take precedent over state and local laws. President Trump issued an executive order on January 25, 2017 blocking sanctuary jurisdictions from receiving federal grants. On April 25, a federal judge in California blocked the enforcement of the order nationwide, which is being appealed by the Trump administration.

In addition to law enforcement and immigration questions, this deliberation triggers a debate about federalism. To what extent do localities have the right to resist federal mandates? Under which circumstances might federal directives to detain undocumented immigrants be deemed an unconstitutional commandeering of state and local resources? Can sanctuary jurisdictions be penalized for their failure to cooperate by withholding federal monies? When is holding back federal funds deemed unconstitutionally coercive?