Twin Cities mayors defiant of sanctuary city order

Published 10:56 am Thursday, January 26, 2017

By Tim Nelson FM

The mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul offered a defiant response to President Donald Trump’s executive order against so-called sanctuary cities that he says “willfully violate federal law.”

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Under the order signed Wednesday, cities with policies against reporting undocumented immigrants to federal authorities could risk losing federal funding. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul could fall into that category.

Minneapolis won’t drop its policy that blocks police from reporting immigration violations, Mayor Betsy Hodges said Wednesday.

The rule makes the city and its people safer because victims and witnesses of crime will feel like they’re able to call the cops, Hodges said.

“They will be safe to [call police] and their immigration status will not be questioned,” she said. “That will stand in the city of Minneapolis as long as I am mayor.”

City staff are still figuring out how much federal money might be at stake, Hodges said, but it could be millions or even tens of millions of dollars.

St. Paul gets about $13 million a year in federal funding. But mayor Chris Coleman said he doesn’t think Trump’s order will apply to his city.

The order applies to cities that willfully violate federal law, Coleman said, and St. Paul’s immigration policy does not.

“Not only has our current police chief, but police chiefs past, and police chiefs across the country have made it very clear that they need to be able to build trusting relationships in immigrant communities,” he said. “We have the ability to make those determinations on a local level.”

Trump’s order says sanctuary cities “have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.”

For enforcement, the order directs the U.S. Attorney General and Department of Homeland Security to block federal grants — with some exceptions — to cities and other jurisdictions that don’t report undocumented immigrants to the Immigration and Naturalization Service when they find them.

The order also directs Homeland Security to publish a list of crimes by undocumented immigrants and any jurisdictions that may have failed to detain them.

Supporters of Trump’s order say it has been a long time coming.

Scott Johnson, a Twin Cities attorney and contributor to the conservative website Powerline, said he thinks Minneapolis and St. Paul have no business defying federal law as Trump is defining it, or as presidents have sought to define it for decades — like John F. Kennedy did in 1963.

“There isn’t any more justification for sanctuary city policies than there was for George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door to keep blacks from entering the University of Alabama,” he said.

It isn’t entirely clear what will constitute a violation of the immigration law Trumps’ order makes reference to.

Some jurisdictions have immigration policies that aren’t as clear as Minneapolis or St. Paul.

For example, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s office says it won’t hold people solely on immigration detainers without a warrant or removal order. But it doesn’t ban deputies from sending immigration information to immigration authorities, either.

Trump’s order has a 90-day deadline for federal officials to report back to the president on their progress.