Republicans Can Find a Concrete Win in Stripping Sanctuary City Grants

By Nathan Desautels on August 3, 2023

Daily Caller, August 3, 2023

Recently, House Republicans have placed Secretary Mayorkas in the crosshairs of a concerted impeachment effort. This comes alongside the end of a lengthy legal battle in Texas v. United States over a memo Mayorkas issued in September of 2021, ordering ICE to “exercise discretion” by performing only the highest priority removals. Mayorkas’ new guidelines effectively made it impossible for millions of illegal aliens to be deported.

The Supreme Court ruled against Texas and Louisiana’s claim that the federal government has an obligation to perform removals under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. Without relief from the judiciary, House Republicans seem all the more invested in laying the groundwork for impeaching Mayorkas. With headlines focused on the theatrics of house hearings and potential impeachments, it’s easy to overlook how removal efforts face significant roadblocks beyond the federal level. Since 2021, a silent threat to federal removal and enforcement efforts has been rebuilding: sanctuary jurisdictions.

As of 2023, there are an estimated 300 sanctuary localities which have explicit policies to obstruct immigration enforcement. Once restrained by a Trump era policy which tied millions in federal grant money to cooperation with immigration enforcement, sanctuary jurisdictions are once again flush for federal cash and show no signs of slowing down.

In a report I co-authored with Jessica Vaughan published by the Center for Immigration Studies, we found that nearly $300 million was awarded to sanctuary jurisdictions in 2021 from just three federal law enforcement related grants: The State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), The Edward M. Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG), and The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).

SCAAP is a program which ironically serves to reimburse state and local prisons for a portion of the cost of incarcerating illegal immigrants. In addition, Byrne- JAG and COPS represent vital federal funding for justice programs and policing respectively. Money earmarked for law enforcement should not be sent to localities which refuse to cooperate with federal enforcement efforts. This is especially true under an administration, which by Mayorkas’ own priorities, only aims at removing a miniscule sum of illegal aliens, mostly violent criminal offenders, out of the larger population.

A staggering 43% of the $1.4 billion available to these three grants went to sanctuary jurisdictions. In 2010, SCAAP awarded just 16% of its total to sanctuary jurisdictions. In 2021, SCAAP awarded 58% of its total award to sanctuary jurisdictions – a share almost four times larger than under Obama. This ever-growing earthquake threatens to rock the foundation of serious enforcement efforts for any future administration.

Our report represents a relatively small, but critical section of funding which sanctuary cities, counties, and states rely upon. But if these jurisdictions accept funding without consequence, then there will be little incentive for them to reconsider their sanctuary policies under a future administration.

House Republicans need to restrict federal grant funding in future appropriations bills to encourage sanctuary jurisdictions to shift course before 2025, and potentially a new administration. In many of these jurisdictions, laws on the books, not simply discretion, prevent key forms of cooperation with federal immigration authorities. If a new administration is concerned with enforcing immigration priorities above the bare minimum, then stonewalling efforts around removing these laws could delay enforcement for months to years.

Even if the 2024 elections prove disappointing to Republicans, a measure taken now is still a meaningful step towards shifting the narrative on immigration. Furthermore, if House Democrats raise a fuss, then they will only be drawing attention to an important issue which has fallen out of the national spotlight in recent years.

House Republicans seem to have only recently discovered the power of the purse, but with a lack of anything really concrete on immigration, this could offer the win they need on the issue.

Perform a pincer movement on immigration by hitting both Mayorkas and renegade localities. Take a step towards effective enforcement while exploding the issue onto the national stage.