Washington, DC at risk of losing sanctuary city status

Washington, D.C. is a Sanctuary City but may not be for much longer.

President Donald Trump has threatened to pull funding from sanctuary cities, repeatedly saying he would end sanctuary cities. He signed an executive order in January restricting funding to sanctuary jurisdictions.


A sanctuary city is a place in the U.S. or Canada where illegal immigrants are protected from being prosecuted for breaking federal immigration laws. D.C. is one of many in the U.S. but is a particularly significant one because it’s the capital. There’s no official way to legally make a place into a sanctuary city, but D.C. is considered one by mayoral decree .

According to Jane Park, an immigration attorney at American Immigration Lawyer’s Association (AILA), “the mayor will do everything she can” to protect immigrants, despite Trump’s desire to cut funding.

“We see that at least the travel and the refugee ban is being fought ferociously by the district court.” Park said. “I think the states will prevail.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser insisted the undocumented population in the District would remain safe.

“I will not let the residents of D.C. live in fear,” the mayor said in January. “The District is and will continue to be a sanctuary city.”

Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.  These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.- January 25, 2017 executive order

Professor Alberto Benitez of George Washington University Law School is the director of the immigration clinic at GW. He says the executive order Donald Trump signed threatening to withhold funding could impact D.C.

“It’ll make it harder (to be a sanctuary city) because the administration is threatening to pull federal funding,” Benitez said. “That money will have to be replaced from somewhere. Where? D.C. will have to figure that out”

Benitez wasn’t so certain Trump’s executive order would hold up in court. It could suffer the same fate as President Trump’s order restricting travel from the Middle East.

“I think it’ll be overturned because of the language that the judges used in temporary injunctions,” Benitez said.

Benitez isn’t certain the administration will end up withholding funds, but the fact that the threat exists is worrisome for the status of sanctuary cities in D.C.



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