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States and localities respond to Donald Trump’s immigration plans
By Michele Waslin, American Immigration Council
With all the focus on what to expect at the national level on immigration under President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, it’s easy to overlook the states and localities, which are reacting to the presidential elections and previewing their intentions on immigration.
Elections for governor were held in 12 states, with Democrats and Republicans each winning six. Republicans increased the number of states in which they control both legislative chambers from 30 to 32 states. Republicans have control of the governor’s office and both legislative houses in 24 states. Democrats control both Houses in 13 states, and have full control in six.
Given the harsh anti-immigrant tone Trump took, some states and localities are doubling down on protecting their immigrant communities, push back on federal attempts to increase deportations, and make their communities more welcoming for all residents. For example:
- In Chicago, a $1 million legal defense fund for immigrants was recently created. Mayor Rahm Emanuel also promised to keep Chicago a “sanctuary city” and restrict its collaboration with federal enforcement authorities, even if the city loses federal funding as a result.
- In New York City, Mayor Bill DeBlasio has voiced strong support for immigrants and the city’s protective policies. Most recently, he vowed that the federal government would not be able to use information from municipal ID cards to target immigrants for deportation. Approximately 900,000 New York CIty residents have these ID cards and had submitted documents proving identity and city residency in order to receive them.
- In California, lawmakers are considering a series of bills to protect unauthorized immigrants from deportation. One bill would create a fund to pay for legal counsel for immigrants facing deportation. Another would train criminal defense attorneys in immigration law so they could better protect their clients. The California Values Act (SB 54) would ban state and local police from performing the functions of a federal immigration officer and would create “safe zones” at public schools, hospitals, and courthouses.
- Also in California, the Dignity Not Detention Act was re-introduced. It would prohibit local cities and counties from entering into new contracts with private, for-profit detention facilities and would require detention facilities to comply with standards of humane treatment.
- In Detroit, the city council approved municipal ID cards, which will allow all city residents to have identification documents regardless of immigration status. According to City Council Member Raquel Castaneda Lopez, “We do not stand down to our commitment to being a sanctuary city. We don’t stand down to our commitment to being a welcoming city. We do not stand down to our commitment to welcoming refugees.”
- Churches and universities around the nation have also vowed to push back against any federal policies that endanger immigrants.
At the same time, some states and localities will likely feel emboldened by Trump’s victory to push for greater restrictions on immigrants and immigration.
In the past, we have seen state policies aimed at making life more difficult for immigrants living in the community, encouraging them to leave. Bolstered by likely expansions of collaboration between federal immigration enforcement agencies and states, we are likely to see legislation affirming such cooperation. We may also see new attempts to cut refugee resettlement, and there may also be attempts to roll back previously passed immigrant integration policies. For example:
- In Florida, State Senator Greg Steube filed a bill (SB 82) to repeal in-state tuition for undocumented students who graduated from Florida high schools. The current law providing for in-state tuition went into effect in July 2014. According to Sen. Steube, who was just named chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, “I don’t think it’s appropriate that illegal immigrants should get tax-subsidized tuition.”
- Some states will be trying to prohibit so-called “sanctuary cities” that limit cooperation with the federal immigration authorities. For example, Arkansas SB14 would prohibit sanctuary policies and deny state funds to municipalities that do not comply. The bill defines a sanctuary policy as one that limits reporting of immigration status to federal authorities, restricts custody transfers to ICE, requires ICE to obtain a warrant before making a custody transfer, prevents law enforcement officers from asking about immigration status, or grants unauthorized immigrants “the right to lawful presence or status within the municipality in violation of federal law.” Senator Gary Stubblefield, the bill’s sponsor, said he is unaware of any actual sanctuary cities in the state and claimed his bill is “preemptive.” Anti-sanctuary legislation has been pre-filed in Texas as well.
- In 2016, dozens of bills were introduced in state legislatures aimed at preventing refugees from being resettled in the state. In Michigan, House Concurrent Resolution 28 is a non-binding anti-refugee resolution that urges the U.S. government to stop refugee resettlement in Michigan until the federal government increases screening and security checks. It passed the House Local Government Committee.
- In Texas, where the legislature meets every other year, we can expect debate on a number of immigration-related issues in 2017 including making any crime committed by an unauthorized immigrant a felony and a bill to amend the state’s constitution to deny bail to anyone in the country unlawfully.
As the federal government presses for more collaboration between states and localities in order to pursue a deportation agenda in the future, it will be more critical than ever to monitor state and local laws and policies.