Bay Area officials defy Trump’s executive order on sanctuary cities

Bay Area officials responded with defiance Wednesday to an executive order by President Donald Trump denying federal grant funds to cities and counties that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, vowing to maintain their “Sanctuary City” policies.

Trump Wednesday signed an executive order stating that jurisdictions that “willfully refuse” to comply are not eligible to receive Federal grant funds. The executive order says sanctuary jurisdictions “have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.”

That order means a number of Bay Area cities including San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Berkeley, Alameda and Emeryville face the potential loss of millions in federal funding, although the exact details have yet to be spelled out.

San Francisco receives more than $1 billion in funding from the federal government across all categories, but more than half is distributed by the state. Mayor Ed Lee Wednesday said the city is still working to determine exactly which funds will be affected by the order but noted that Department of Homeland Security grant funds total somewhere around $10 million.

Lee said he stands by the city’s Sanctuary City policy, which he believes makes San Francisco safer. The policy is intended to increase trust and cooperation between local law enforcement and immigrant communities, as well as make it possible for immigrants to access services such as education and health care.

Lee said Wednesday:

“Our city is still a sanctuary city and we are going to remain a sanctuary city.”

In a city known for fractious politics, opposition to Trump’s executive order Wednesday was unanimous, with members of the Board of Supervisors also expressing their support for Sanctuary City policies at a rally outside City Hall and in statements to the press.

The Board also on Tuesday approved $1.5 million in additional funding for nonprofits that provide legal defense for immigrants facing deportation, in response to statements by Trump that he plans to deport an estimated three million undocumented immigrants with criminal records.

However, Lee has come under fire in some quarters for refusing to pursue additional funding for the Public Defender’s Office to help defend immigrants already in detention, as advocates have requested.

Lee was one of several Bay Area mayors issuing statements Wednesday affirming their support for Sanctuary City policies.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said his city’s officers would continue to focus their “scarce time” responding to high-priority crimes, “not the enforcement of federal tax laws, federal securities laws, or federal immigration laws.”

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf Wednesday said her city receives around $130 million in federal funding for everything from early education programs to community policing.

Schaaf said in a statement:

“The Bay Area stands united against this White House’s morally bankrupt policies that would divide families, turn our nation’s back on refugees in need and potentially thwart the efforts of nearly one million productive young people who are on a legal path to citizenship.”

Elected officials at the state and federal level also condemned Trump’s executive orders, which in addition to the attack on Sanctuary Cities called for the construction of a border wall, severe new restrictions on immigrants and the acceptance of refugees, and an expansion of the categories of undocumented immigrants eligible for deportation to include those merely charged with a crime.

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said:

“The president’s executive orders are rooted in an un-American hostility toward immigrant communities…This nation is, has been, and always will be a nation of immigrants.”

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris said:

“These executive orders will harm public safety, tear families apart, and jeopardize national security…Directing a deportation force to break up immigrant families contributing to our country is not a show of strength, it damages our communities and erodes local economies.”

State Sen. Scott Wiener said:

“Trump can build his wall and he can try to cut off funding for sanctuary cities, but he’s in for one hell of a fight.”

San Francisco’s Sanctuary City policies have been the subject of controversy, most recently following the July 1, 2015 shooting of Kate Steinle, a 32-year-old Pleasanton native who was killed while walking on Pier 14.

Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a Mexican citizen with a history of drug convictions and deportations, was arrested an hour later and charged with killing her with a gun that had been stolen from the car of a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger.

The case drew national attention because the sheriff’s office had released Lopez-Sanchez from jail after charges were dismissed a short time before the shooting without notifying immigration authorities, as dictated by city policy.

Steinle’s family sued, but a federal judge threw out the family’s case against the city earlier this month, saying there was no law requiring the city to disclose Lopez-Sanchez’ release date.

The Board of Supervisors voted in May to uphold and revise the Sanctuary City policy to clarify that law enforcement would only notify immigration authorities of an inmate’s release in limited circumstances involving serious felonies.