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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Sunday, August 20, 2017

New York City, labeled a “Sanctuary City” for its protection of undocumented immigrants, has complied with federal immigration officials and has not skirted the law. This was the message in a letter to the Justice Department Wednesday by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. In the letter, de Blasio argued that, because of its cooperation, NYC is still entitled to its $4.3 million federal law enforcement grant received during New York City’s last fiscal year. 

De Blasio’s letter, along with others from Philadelphia and New Orleans, were sent in the wake of a House vote Thursday cracking down on undocumented immigrants who have committed felonies, according to a NY Times report. De Blasio’s sentiments in the letter were echoed by New York commissioner for immigrant affairs Nisha Agarwal. 

“Being a sanctuary city does not mean that you are out of compliance or trying to violate federal law in any way,” Agarwal told the Times. Agarwal suggested she does not see a contradiction in protecting public safety and promoting “policies and programs that are supportive of immigrant communities.” 

The fate of “sanctuary cities” may be hanging in the balance. On Thursday, the House passed two pieces of legislation (titled “Kate’s Law” and the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act”) which would boost penalties for attempts to reenter the U.S. by undocumented immigrants who have been deported. Sanctuary cities will be penalized for protecting such individuals by a slashing of funds, while deported immigrants attempting to illegally reenter the U.S. could face 10-25 years behind bars. Under the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, local law enforcement agents will be required to cooperate with immigration officials or risk losing grant money if their jurisdictions fail to comply. In a tweet Thursday, President Trump lauded the House’s passage of “Kate’s Law” as “good news,” adding that he hopes the Senate will follow suit.  

On Wednesday, Trump said the legislation is “freeing up towns – actually we’re liberating towns, if you believe we have to do that in the United States of America.”

In September 2016, New York City received a three-year grant, titled the “Byrne Jag Grant” in honor of slain police officer Edward Byrne. However, NYC is in jeopardy of having those funds revoked if the Justice Department finds it has not complied with federal immigration laws, the New York Times noted. 

 It seems a moment of reckoning may have arrived for sanctuary cities such as NYC and others, as they walk a difficult tightrope between protecting undocumented immigrants from what they perceive to be draconian policies and cooperating with federal immigration laws. The cities may have to carefully consider their next moves when dealing with an administration that appears to have made cracking down on illegal immigration a top priority.

By:  Menachem Rephun