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Mayors of “Sanctuary Cities” Will Forgo Federal Funding to Defend Immigrant Rights

Will Donald Trump act on his plan to deport 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants?

Now that Trump is President-elect, it’s a question Americans are being forced to consider. Already, a handful of so-called “sanctuary cities” in the US have expressed that they will not cooperate with the President-elect’s deportation demands.

These cities, in which it is illegal for local police to cooperate with immigration officials, effectively handicap federal deportation. 

“To all those who are, after Tuesday's election, very nervous and filled with anxiety ... you are safe in Chicago, you are secure in Chicago and you are supported in Chicago," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a press conference this Monday. The conference had been called to publicize an expansion of mental health services following the election results, NPR reports.

Emanuel is one of a growing number of mayors to announce his opposition to the President-elect, including New York City’s Bill de Blasio and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. Estimates place a half-million illegal-immigrants living in the San Francisco Bay Area and one-third of Illinois’ 475,000 illegal-immigrants living in Chicago.

Unsurprisingly, they’ve been criticized by Republican Senators who argue that lax laws put American lives in danger. They point to the 2015 death of Kate Steinle, an American who was killed by an undocumented immigrant living in San Francisco.

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But, according to one study by the Washington Post, the blanket correlation between illegal immigration and crime isn’t valid. “Our new research shows that designating a city as a sanctuary has no statistically significant effect on crime,” says the report, which surveyed cities before and after declaring their sanctuary status.

Since Tuesday’s shock election, city mayors have aligned themselves on the defensive against the President-elect. It’s a bold stance to take, considering that in his outline of his first “100 Days in Office,” Trump had stated that he would “cancel all federal-funding to sanctuary cities.” He reiterated that stance this Sunday on an episode of “60 Minutes”.

They’ve also been taking a barrage of criticism from citizens who oppose immigrant-friendly positions. Critics of Mayor Emanuel, especially, perceived Chicago's "Sanctuary" status as ironic considering the high rate of homicide in the city.

Barring a change in Mr. Trump’s stance, those cities will have to plan for a future without federal funding, which is a significant amount of political pressure to leverage.

“Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars, and we will work with Congress to pass legislation to protect those jurisdictions that do assist federal authorities." said Trump in a speech in August. “We will end the sanctuary cities that have resulted in so many needless deaths.”

Despite that, Ed Lee, the Mayor of San Francisco, has stated the he won’t sway in his opposition to the President-elect’s policy. “Being a sanctuary city, for me, is the DNA of San Francisco. We’ll always be a Sanctuary City,” he said last Thursday in a press conference.

In a city like San Francisco the cut to federal funding — $496 million — would be at least 5% of its $9.6 billion operating budget. In the past, that federal funding had been earmarked for low-income housing projects, roadways and infrastructural projects like the San Francisco Central Subway.

The idea isn’t entirely original. In fact, this October a similar bill was blocked in the Senate by a 53-44 vote. At the time, it was criticized by Senate minority leader Harry Reid, “Americans deserve a real-solution to our broken immigration system, not dog-whistle politics.”