Editorials

This latest dust-up is why California can’t trust Trump on immigration

Protesters hold up signs outside a courthouse where a federal judge heard arguments in the first lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump's executive order to withhold funding from communities that limit cooperation with immigration authorities.
Protesters hold up signs outside a courthouse where a federal judge heard arguments in the first lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump's executive order to withhold funding from communities that limit cooperation with immigration authorities. AP

If there’s one constant in the chaotic administration of Donald Trump, it’s that there’s always a reason to doubt what the president and his surrogates say about immigration policy.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement proved that just last week, when it released data showing that arrests of undocumented immigrants without criminal records were up a whopping 156 percent from last year. That’s 10,845 people whose immigration violations were the only marks on their record.

And that’s what happened after ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan promised, even during a visit to Sacramento, that his agency would focus on immigrants with criminal records.

It’s no wonder then that Sacramento, San Francisco and so many other cities in California have declared themselves so-called sanctuary cities, refusing to cooperate with federal authorities as the feds expedite deportations of people who haven’t committed serious crimes.

California isn’t a sanctuary state yet. But with its hateful rhetoric, confusing policies, secretive raids and deliberate deceptions, the Trump administration is giving the Legislature every reason to take that step.

The trickery from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week certainly didn’t help. On Monday, he issued a policy memo to clarify parts of an executive order that would punish sanctuary cities by denying them millions of dollars in federal funding.

Now, only jurisdictions that “willfully refuse to comply” with immigration authorities will be considered sanctuary cities. The penalty would be that the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security would deny them grants. Still, it’s questionable whether any of that will come to pass for Sacramento or any other sanctuary city.

For now, Trump’s executive order remains blocked – a recurring problem for the president.

U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick in San Francisco called the order “not legally plausible,” and summarily barred the administration from using it to impose any new restrictions, such as withholding funding from cities that refuse to hold undocumented immigrants for ICE.

It turns out Sessions’ policy memo was also part of a larger strategy to get Orrick to overturn his injunction – a long shot, at best, legal experts agree. The provision of federal law covering what cities must do to help federal immigration authorities is on California’s side.

But Sessions could challenge the law. In the meantime, the Trump administration is trying to change it on the sly.

On Tuesday, the White House released its $4.1 trillion budget. Buried in it is a section about expanding the law with language that would force local governments to comply with detention requests for ICE. Any sanctuary cities that refused to comply would lose federal grant dollars.

If that weren’t enough, Trump has requested a $2.7 billion increase for border security and immigration enforcement, part of a bump for the Department of Homeland Security.

That’s in addition to targeting undocumented immigrants by requiring anyone claiming the earned-income tax credit to provide a valid Social Security number.

Trump likes to think of himself as the victim of a witch hunt. But the administration has embarked on a witch hunt as it seeks to deport millions of undocumented immigrants who help keep the economy moving, and their American children. They deserve better.

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