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Law expert doesn't think Trump can withhold federal money from sanctuary cities

Apr 7, 2017

Lansing has become Michigan’s first official “sanctuary city.” Other cities, such has Detroit, have avoided that declaration and instead use terms such as “immigrant friendly” or “welcoming city." And there's a reason for that.

The term “sanctuary city” could put Lansing at risk of losing federal grants—all of them.

President Donald Trump has issued an executive order which says a “sanctuary jurisdiction” will not be eligible to receive federal funds. There's no legal definition of a sanctuary city, but it usually means that local government and law enforcement don’t help detain or deport undocumented immigrants unless they have a violent criminal record.

Ted Waters, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney, recently wrote an article entitled "Holding Federal Funds Hostage – Can They Do That?"

Grants do usually have strings attached, but Waters joined Stateside to explain what makes this situation different.

"There's no grant condition that you do what the immigration laws require, really," Waters said. "The sanctuary city definition ... there is no definition. It is a term that's used very loosely by cities and counties and states to say that we're ... welcome to people from other countries. And that idea is being turned by [the Trump administration] into something negative."

Waters calls this approach "very extreme" and can't recall any past instance of a city or county having its federal funding completely revoked. 

Listen to the full interview above to learn about times the Supreme Court took up the issue of withholding federal funds from municipalities or states. You'll also hear Waters' thoughts on whether or not the President’s executive order will stand up to judicial scrutiny.

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