In November, Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged that New York City would remain a sanctuary city for the estimated 500,000 undocumented immigrants who currently call its five boroughs home, even in the face of the Trump administration’s promises throughout his presidential campaign to revoke federal funding for municipalities who vow to protect those residents.
It’s a stance he doubled down on last week on The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC, when he said “we have to start to evolve this discussion” on immigration and sanctuary cities.
But now, it seems that may be put to the test: Earlier today, Trump press secretary Sean Spicer said during a press conference that the White House would sign two executive orders about immigration. (Update: The orders are now posted on the White House website.) One would order the planning and construction of the border wall between the United States and Mexico that was one of Trump’s core campaign promises.
The other would take aim at immigration, both through deporting undocumented immigrants and taking action against sanctuary cities—including, of course, New York. More than a dozen cities throughout New York State have also pledged to be sanctuary cities, and Governor Andrew Cuomo has called the entire state a “refuge” for those who feel unsafe in the age of Trump.
If federal funding to sanctuary cities is cut off, as Trump’s administration has threatened, New York City could lose about nine percent of the city’s annual budget, or about $7 billion. In December, comptroller Scott Stringer released a report detailing exactly what would be at stake: That $7 billion goes toward, among other things, the NYPD’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism budget; Section 8 Housing Choice vouchers, which would affect 39,000 households; half of the budget for the city’s already-strapped Child Protective Services agency; and almost the entire budget of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment program.
This comes on the heels of Mayor de Blasio releasing an $84.67 billion budget for the coming fiscal year, which takes that federal funding into account. But as DNAInfo notes, the city has funds on reserve, including $1 billion in the general fund, and city agencies have been tasked with finding ways to save money in the coming year, just in case.
Though Mayor de Blasio has yet to release an official statement on the forthcoming executive orders from Trump’s administration, he did tell the New York Observer that “The message to New Yorkers who are worried about the policies of the Trump administration, the folks who are fearful that they are not going to be able to stay with their family members here, is that we are going to do all in our power to protect them.”
And New York officials, both at the city and state levels, seem to be digging in for a fight. In a statement, Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz said, “New York is a sanctuary city, and we are proud of that designation. I will stand with my colleagues and the people of New York to fight any attempt to enact immigration policy that will harm New York City.”
Comptroller Scott Stringer also issued a statement, saying:
“Either the White House doesn’t understand the significance of its threats to defund Sanctuary Cities, or it does and is willfully turning its back on America’s legacy as the land of freedom and opportunity for all. Instead of building walls, we should be tearing down barriers. Instead of ripping families apart, we should be supporting them. We should be encouraging more immigration — not less. These Executive Actions and threats to defund Sanctuary Cities simply take America backwards.”
Here's our report on the $7B of federal funds for NYC. Does Mr. Spicer understand the significance of his comments? https://t.co/1mqodKNW8o— Scott M. Stringer (@scottmstringer) January 25, 2017
Public Advocate Letitia James, who has supported helping undocumented New Yorkers gain citizenship before Trump took office, indicated that she would have further remarks at a rally due to take place in Washington Square Park later this evening, organized by several civil rights groups:
And this afternoon, New York State assembly members Carl Heastie and Francisco Moya also issued a release saying that the state assembly would introduce legislation to “promote fair and just treatment of immigrants in New York State,” including the following :
Our proposals would prohibit detention of immigrants based on administratively issued detainer warrants; protect against unnecessary inquiries into immigration status; prohibit state and local support for federal registries that are created based on a person’s race, ethnicity, religion or county of origin; ensure that all persons are afforded due process; and provide legal assistance for immigrants.
“It’s up to leaders in New York and around the country to stand up to this agenda of hatred and prejudice,” Heastie and Moya said in a statement. “It only serves to blemish the United States’ reputation on the world stage. We must be willing to do all we can to stop this.”
Update: City Council speaker Melissa Mark Viverito also issued a statement affirming New York City’s commitment to its immigrant residents:
Let’s be clear, these proposals are driven by the false narrative that immigrants are criminals – yet what President Trump seems to forget is that America is a nation of immigrants. Immigrants strengthen our economy, enrich our communities and uphold America’s ideals of family, inclusion and compassion. Today, this City Council reaffirms its commitment to doing everything in its power to defend the rule of law and support our immigrant communities. No wall, no bullying, or fearmongering will change that.”