There’s a legitimate fear that Rhode Island could lose federal funding if President Donald Trump decides to take this draconian action in his broad battle against immigrants and illegal immigration. After all, the New York Times considers Rhode Island to be a sort of sanctuary state and Mayor Jorge Elorza has pledged to govern like Providence is a sanctuary city.
But there’s some agreement on the left and the right that Trump probably can’t unilaterally deny federal funding to compel cities and states to become deputized in his immigration roundup.
“Notwithstanding the President’s disturbing saber-rattling, there are clear constitutional limits on his ability to punish cities and towns that decide they do not want to be in the business of enforcing federal immigration law,” said Steve Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union, in a statement earlier this week. “Many public officials, including representatives of law enforcement, recognize that promoting trust in the immigrant community is a critical component of policing and that the crackdowns envisioned by the President undermine, rather than promote, public safety.”
Some local conservatives tend to agree with Brown on this point. I asked Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the conservative Rhode Island Center For Freedom and Prosperity, on Twitter for his thoughts.
@bobplain Possibly, in the landmark SCOTUS ACA ruling, the Feds were not allowed to use $$ to coerce states to adopt its policies.
— Mike Stenhouse (@MSten37) January 27, 2017
Then Andrew Morse, a conservative pundit, answered my question in greater depth. He said the prevailing case law may be the famous one about the feds withholding highway funding unless states raised the drinking age to 21.
— Andrew Morse (@CAndrewMorse) January 27, 2017
In the drinking age/highway funding case, the Supreme Court found that the feds actions were “in pursuit of ‘the general welfare,’ and that the means chosen to do so were reasonable.” So something like that could be the test the current Supreme Court would apply if and when the Resistance States (Rhode Island, California, New York, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont) or any sanctuary cities (for example: Boston, Amherst, Hartford, Stamford, New York, Princeton, NJ, Baltimore, Washington DC, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Berkeley, Los Angeles) decide to sue the president of the United States if he tries to withhold federal funding to compel immigration policy allegiance.