HSPRD has advised the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Major Cities Chiefs Association on the legality of efforts by the Trump Administration to deny broad categories of federal funding to cities that limit local enforcement of federal immigration laws. The U.S. Conference of Mayors is an organization of 1,400 cities around the country, and the Major Cities Chiefs Association is a professional organization of police executives representing the largest cities in the United States.
The Tenth Amendment and Spending Clause of the U.S. Constitution place significant limitations on the authority of the federal executive and legislative branches to restrict funding to cities. Accordingly, any attempt to cut off wide sources of federal funding to cities based on their immigration enforcement policies would violate the law. This principle was recently confirmed when the Supreme Court held in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius that it was unconstitutional to withhold all federal Medicaid funds from states that chose not to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion provisions. Federal funds can only be withheld when there is a close relationship to the specific grant program at issue. This means it is unlikely that Congress or the executive branch can legally withhold grants to so-called sanctuary cities unless they are directly related to immigration enforcement.
In addition, current interpretations of the Tenth Amendment hold that any attempts by the federal government to compel state and local compliance with immigration enforcement also would be unlawful. This would apply to directives forcing cities to comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to detain individuals based on immigration status (known as “ICE detainers”). Many courts around the country have held that detaining individuals pursuant to ICE detainers when there is no other basis for their arrest violates the Fourth Amendment.
HSPRD looks forward to continuing to work with municipalities, organizations, and individuals to provide legal analysis and assistance regarding recent executive actions.