Some states and cities attempted to forestall what they saw as overreaching Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enforcement efforts in 2018. Many already had sanctuary policies in place and others added new ones: the Ohio Jobs and Justice PAC—which began tracking sanctuary jurisdictions after concerns that the Congressional Research Service’s reporting was becoming outdated—listed more than 400 sanctuary jurisdictions, even before the November midterm elections.Ohio Jobs and Justice PAC, “The Original List of Sanctuary Cities, USA,” updated August 23, 2018. And even in places that have no official sanctuary policy, community members and local officials took action to support immigrants.
Sanctuary cities also took the fight to the courtroom floor. After President Trump tried to defund sanctuary jurisdictions with an executive order stating that “jurisdictions that fail to comply with applicable Federal law do not receive Federal funds,” Chicago, Philadelphia, Portland (Oregon), and San Francisco (among other California cities) all sued the federal government to collect law enforcement grants—in Chicago’s case, twice.Executive Office of the President, Executive Order 13768, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” January 25, 2017. For the cities’ lawsuits, see City of San Francisco v. Trump, No. 17-17478 (9th Cir. 2018); City of Philadelphia v. Sessions, No. 17-3894 (E.D. Pa. 2018); and City of Seattle v. Trump, No. 17-cv- 00497 (W.D. Wash. 2017). For the history of Chicago’s grant lawsuits, see Debra Weiss, "As Judges Rule for Sanctuary Cities, Chicago Sues Sessions for Blocking New Public Safety Grants," ABA Journal, October 25, 2018. For the new lawsuit, see Chicago v. Sessions, No. 1:18-cv-6859 (N.D. Ill.) (complaint filed October 12, 2018).
Under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Department of Justice claimed these jurisdictions were “noncompliant” and should not receive funds because they were not volunteering information about the immigration status of people who came into contact with their justice systems—information that the cities do not, and are not required to, collect.Southern Poverty Law Center, “The Current State of Sanctuary Law,” March 8, 2018.
And, following the passage of California’s sanctuary laws, the federal government sued to overturn the state’s limits on local collaboration with federal immigration enforcement.United States v. California, No. 2:18-cv-490-JAM-KJN (E.D. Cal. 2018).
The district court granted, for the most part, the state’s motion to dismiss.United States v. California, No. 2:18-cv-490-JAM-KJN (E.D. Cal. 2018),order granting in part and denying in part motion to dismiss, July 9, 2018.
The federal government has appealed.United States v. California, No. 2:18-cv-490-JAM-KJN (E.D. Cal. 2018), notice of appeal by United States of America, August 7, 2018.
In February, ICE spokeswoman Sarah Rodriguez announced that in “uncooperative jurisdictions” that do not apprehend and detain people until ICE can take custody of them, the agency plans to conduct at-large arrests, known colloquially as “sweeps,” in the community.Cindy Carcamo, “ICE Launches New Immigration Sweep in L.A. Area; At Least 100 Detained So Far,” Los Angeles Times, February 14, 2018. But sanctuary laws aren’t the only arrow in states’ quivers. More and more states—11 by year’s end—have refused to allow their National Guard contingents to be mobilized in support of the administration’s policies: Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia called their personnel and equipment home from the border, and seven other states, including New York and Colorado, canceled planned deployments.Sinéad Baker, “11 States Are Pulling National Guard Troops From The US-Mexico Border In A Growing Protest Over Trump's Family-Separation Policy,” Business Insider, June 20, 2018. While the majority of nonparticipating states have Democratic governors, the Republican governors of Maryland and Massachusetts also have indicated they would refuse to send assets.Sinéad Baker, “11 States Are Pulling National Guard Troops From The US-Mexico Border In A Growing Protest Over Trump's Family-Separation Policy,” Business Insider, June 20, 2018.
Not all communities mobilized to defend local immigrants, however. Iowa and Tennessee enacted anti-sanctuary laws that require cooperation with immigration authorities.Iowa Senate File 481 (2018); and Tennessee HB 2315 (2018). The city of Los Alamitos voted to opt out of California’s sanctuary law, while Orange County joined the U.S. Department of Justice in suing the state to overturn the law.Kaitlyn Schallhorn, “Trump Administration's Lawsuit against California Sanctuary Laws Backed by These Cities, Counties,” Fox News, May 22, 2018. For the lawsuit, see United States v. California, No. 2:18-cv-490-JAM-KJN (E.D. Cal. 2018). Meanwhile, Virginia’s anti-sanctuary bill passed the legislature but was vetoed by Governor Ralph Northam.Virginia HB 1257 (2018). Ultimately, though, the actions that local jurisdictions can take to stem the tide of ICE enforcement are limited. What ICE is doing is legal, and it will take federal action to curb the agency’s power.