In the past 24 hours, President Trump has signaled sweeping federal intervention in the way local and state officials carry out policing, treat immigrants, and run elections, setting off a wave of defiance and apprehension from leaders of some of the nation’s largest cities, the Washington Post reports. In an executive order yesterday, Trump directed the Department of Homeland Security to find ways to defund cities and jurisdictions out of step with his immigration priorities. That action — which could cost sanctuary cities including Washington, New York, and Los Angeles millions of dollars — is the latest in a series of moves where Trump has appeared willing to step on state-level or municipal prerogatives.
U.S. mayors have emerged as key players in the resistance to Trump’s agenda. “Cities know how important local control is, because we are in touch with the people we represent most closely. This is a president who’s been clear that he wants to centralize as much authority as he can in himself,” said Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges. “That is dangerous for our democracy, I believe, and he is using the levers of our democracy to centralize his authority.” At the center of the debate is a disagreement over whether local police officers should be required to help immigration officials enforce federal immigration laws. Liberal mayors, including Los Angeles’s Eric Garcetti and New York City’s Bill de Blasio, have argued that requiring local police to assist immigration agents with deportations could sow distrust among immigrant populations. It could also discourage undocumented victims or witnesses from reporting crimes. “This is a federalism issue,” said Jorge Elorza, the mayor of Providence, R.I., and the son of immigrants. “The idea of local control is deeply embedded in American history, and what we have now is a very aggressive attempt by the federal government to commandeer our local police departments to become immigration agents.” He vowed “massive and aggressive lawsuits,” a resistance echoed by several local leaders.