If San Diego County falls under the definition of “sanctuary city,” it could lose up to $724.3 million in federal funding under President-elect Donald Trump’s proposed immigration policies.
The city of San Diego could lose $8.1 million.
Neither the city or county of San Diego considers itself to be a sanctuary city, but conservative-leaning websites have included the county and sometimes also the city on lists of sanctuaries where local law enforcement does not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Trump has said he wants to cut federal funding for any place that provides such sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.
The lists also include the state of California, which receives about $96 billion in federal funding.
It would take an act of Congress to cut funding to sanctuary jurisdictions, and Republicans have failed several times in the past to pass bills involving funding to sanctuary cities.
Those bills would not have cut all funding, but rather would have cut select government grants relating to law enforcement or community development. Trump has indicated he would go further.
“We will end the sanctuary cities that have resulted in so many needless deaths,” Trump said in a speech on immigration in Arizona during his campaign. “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.”
He did not specify what “refuse to cooperate” meant, or which funds would be cut off.
“We block the funding,” he said in August. “No more funds.”
His transition team website does not elaborate on the definition of sanctuary cities or specific funds that would be cut off. Neither his campaign nor the transition team responded to requests for clarification.
An official at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency does not maintain a list of sanctuary cities, despite being cited by many of the lists and maps on the internet as a data source. The agency said that ICE has a strong working relationship with local law enforcement in San Diego.
Before November 2014, ICE would give local law enforcement officials a request to hold a person in custody — called a detainer — when the person was booked into a facility who was believed to be an unauthorized immigrant. That request was good for up to 72 hours beyond when the local agency would have kept the person in custody.
California passed the California Trust Act in 2013, prohibiting local law enforcement from holding people in custody for extra time on behalf of ICE. In April 2014, a federal magistrate judge in Oregon found that authorities had violated a woman’s Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure by keeping her in custody on an ICE detainer.
Law enforcement also faced lawsuits from American citizens who were mistakenly held on ICE detainers because they couldn’t be verified, according to Tom Wong, a professor at the University of California San Diego and former adviser to the Barack Obama White House.
In 2014, law enforcement agencies across the country began refusing to honor large numbers of those detainers.
According to data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse of Syracuse University, San Diego’s facilities were mostly compliant with ICE detainers until the Trust Act passed.
The San Diego County jail refused to honor 34 percent of the detainer requests it received in 2014. For comparison, San Francisco County Jail refused to honor 66.8 percent of the detainer requests it received that year. San Francisco considers itself a sanctuary city and has so far stood by that declaration despite funding threats from the incoming Trump administration.
In November 2014, ICE changed its detainer program.
For most cases, ICE now gives law enforcement requests to be notified when a suspected unauthorized immigrant is set to be released. The facility is not asked to hold the person for extra time. ICE can still issue a detainer if it is signed by a judge, and uses that tactic for cases involving serious offenses.
Following the change, the number of detainers refused by San Diego’s jail dropped to 12.2 percent in fiscal 2015. San Francisco’s jail refused 20.7 percent that year.
Trump has said that he wants to reinstate the previous detainer program, called the Secure Communities program, despite its legal issues.
The main facilities in San Diego that receive either ICE detainers or notification requests are run by the county sheriff’s department.
“Federal immigration agencies and officials have primary jurisdiction and responsibility for the enforcement of immigration laws. Under California law, the primary function of a Sheriff’s Deputy is to enforce the laws of the State of California,” said Ryan Keim, spokesman for the sheriff’s department.
“All individuals booked into a San Diego County Jail have their fingerprints checked in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s system to determine their immigration status. ICE agents are stationed in our booking facilities and they are responsible for determining an individual’s immigration status and appropriate enforcement action. When ICE officials wish to take custody of an inmate in the San Diego County jails, they are provided the date, time and place of that person’s release. Consistent with California law, the Sheriff’s Department does not detain inmates past their scheduled release date without lawful authority.”
John Ingrassia, commander of the detention services bureau for the sheriff’s department, said that for those who are sentenced locally, it’s easy to give ICE a heads up before they’re released. For those who get booked in the jails and bail out, sometimes the department can only give ICE a few hours’ notice.
“It’s up to them to show up at the facility upon release,” he said.
Trump could also try to pull local law enforcement into increased immigration enforcement work through a program called 287(g) that the Obama administration did not use, allowing ICE to grant immigration enforcement authority to local law enforcement.
“The San Diego Police Department recognizes and values the diversity of the community it serves,” said Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman in an emailed statement when asked about the possibility of implementing the program.
“The San Diego Police Department focuses primarily on crime prevention and enforcing local laws. Once a suspect is arrested and booked into the San Diego County Jail, the primary responsibility for the enforcement of federal immigration laws rests with the United States Customs and Border Protection Services. The San Diego Police Department does not check the immigration status of victims and witnesses of crimes to encourage all people to come forward, confident in the knowledge their report will be investigated thoroughly and professionally.”
Mayor Ron Morrison of National City said that the city is not a sanctuary city, though it is sometimes mistaken for one because of a statement made by a former mayor during a campaign. He said the city would not implement the 287(g) program.
“They’re asking us to do their job, but we have to pay for it,” Morrison said. “That would be like us doing income tax enforcement.”
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