A decidely despondent contingent of city and county elected officials gathered at city hall in Austin, Texas, on November 17 for a press conference designed to address residents’ “safety concerns” following the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States.
In particular, the officials — including the city’s mayor, several city council members, and the newly elected district attorney and sheriff — sought to quell the concerns of the city’s sizable immigrant population, given the nasty, xenophobic rhetoric espoused by Trump and his surrogates.
Hernandez’s campaign promise put Austin on a trajectory to become the state’s first official so-called sanctuary city, a move praised by residents, activists, and city officials alike — that has also put the city, along withhundreds of other jurisdictions like it across the country, on a collision course with the Trump administration. Trump has vowed to undertake mass deportation of immigrants and to withhold millions in federal funds from jurisdictions that would try to stand in his way. “Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities,” he said, “will not receive taxpayer dollars.”
Although there is no legal definition of what a sanctuary city is, the term is colloquially bestowed on cities or counties that have policies limiting or refusing local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration enforcement authorities.
Not only are the programs abusive, but in the case of S-Comm, unconstitutional — according to a string of recent court cases in which judges have found that the unlawful detention of a person absent probable cause is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
That fact, in turn, may make it difficult for a Trump administration to attack so-called sanctuary cities by threatening to withhold federal funding. “You can’t coerce [someone] through federal funding to do something that is unconstitutional,” said Lena Graber, special projects attorney for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.
That defect may also impact states that align themselves with Trump’s thinking and pass — or attempt to pass — laws that would punish cities or counties that uphold their community values by adopting sanctuary city policies. Texas lawmakers, for example, have tried multiple times to pass just such a law. This year, the governor and lieutenant governor have madeits passage a priority, and activists are gearing up for what they believe will be a tough legislative session. “I think we’re in for a real fight this year,” said Bob Libal, executive director of the activist group Grassroots Leadership. “If there’s anything this election shows us it’s that you can get elected by appealing to the worst in people when it comes to immigration — the worst.”