Two executive orders on immigration signed by President Donald Trump last week seek to suspend federal funding for sanctuary cities and temporarily ban refugees and travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the country.
Protests against the president’s action on traveling erupted last weekend at airports around the country.
The controversy continued to grow on Monday after Acting Attorney General Sally Yates — a holdover from the Obama administration — ordered Department of Justice lawyers to not defend the president’s order.
After the White House claimed Yates had “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States,” Trump fired the federal prosecutor. Virginia US Attorney Dana Boente was sworn in a short time later and rescinded Yates’ order not to defend Trump’s executive order.
The full impacts of the order regarding sanctuary states and cities are not yet known, but communities that have declared themselves one or behave like one could lose federal funding if they do not change their ways.
Although California has declared itself a sanctuary state, some cities, like Pasadena and Los Angeles, have not formally designated themselves as such, although both adhere to basic tenets of that distinction. Some of those include refusing to arrest or detain people based on their immigrant status and refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials.
The Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) has formally declared itself a “safe place” institution, and there are a number of churches in Pasadena that call themselves sanctuary congregations.
“Trump talks about being a good Christian, but if he was a good Christian he would not be doing this,” said Nisar Hai of the Mosque of San Gabriel. US Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena) visited the mosque on Friday to show her support for the Muslim community, said Hai. Hai, president of the mosque, is an engineer and native of India who came to the US in 1963.
The president’s order bans travelers from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the US for 90 days. Not on the list are Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. The order also bans refugee admissions for 120 days, and Syrian refugee admissions indefinitely.
“I’m establishing a new vetting measure to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America,” Trump said after signing the order on Friday. “We don’t want them here. We want to make sure we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas.”
On Saturday, CNN reported that Trump was considering extreme vetting measures for all foreign visitors which would include forcing travelers to turn over social media information and cell phone data.
Extreme vetting is really a euphemism for discriminating against Muslims, said national ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero.
“Identifying specific countries with Muslim majorities and carving out exceptions for minority religions flies in the face of the constitutional principle that bans the government from either favoring or discriminating against particular religions,” said Romero.
Trump made exceptions to the ban for minority religious groups living in the targeted countries, namely Christians and Jews.
Critics were quick to point out that several Middle Eastern countries that have been identified as training grounds for terrorists and places where Trump has businesses — Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates — are excluded from the ban, despite numerous attacks by people from those nations, including the 9/11 attacks on Washington DC and New York. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers in the 9/11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia.
“This order contravenes the principles of religious liberty, equality and compassion that our nation was founded upon,” wrote Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) in a message to his constituents. “In its discriminatory impact of Muslims, it also plays into the Al Qaeda and ISIS narrative that the West is no place for Muslims and that we are engaged in a war of civilizations.”
By Sunday, several Republicans also criticized the president’s travel ban, among them US Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina.
“It is clear from the confusion at our airports across the nation that President Trump’s executive order was not properly vetted. We are particularly concerned by reports that this order went into effect with little to no consultation with the Departments of State, Defense, Justice and Homeland Security,” the two lawmakers said in a joint statement issued Sunday.
Trump tweeted in response that McCain and Graham were looking for ways to take the nation to war.
“The two Senators should focus their energies on ISIS, illegal immigration and border security instead of always looking to start World War III,” the president tweeted in response.
On Saturday, after protests broke out at airports in Orlando, Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington and Chicago, US District Judge Ann Donnelly of Brooklyn granted a request from the ACLU to temporarily halt deportations after concluding that the risk of injury to those detained by being returned to their home countries placed them in danger.
Federal judges in Virginia, the state of Washington and Massachusetts have issued similar orders.
But the president’s immigration-control policies go further than merely stopping travel.
On Jan. 25, Trump signed an executive order that Spicer said will “strip federal grant money from the sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants.”
So-called sanctuary cities have adopted policies that protect undocumented immigrants by not prosecuting them for violating federal immigration laws. Law enforcement officials have also refused to cooperate with federal immigration officials.
Although Pasadena city officials have not officially declared Pasadena a sanctuary city, its police officers do not arrest illegal immigrants based on their citizenship status, nor do they cooperate with federal immigration officials. The same is true of the LAPD, according to Chief Charlie Beck.
“Local government should not be mandated to enforce federal immigration laws, particularly when resources necessary to enforce local laws are already stretched,” the city policy reads.
“The policy is good policy, and I support that council’s decision,” said City Manager Steve Mermell.
In October 2013, the Pasadena council voted to adopt a resolution supporting comprehensive immigration reform, with Councilman Gene Masuda abstaining from voting.
Passed the previous June of that year, US Senate Bill 744 provided a path to citizenship, a streamlined immigration process and increased border patrols. The bill did not require local police departments to enforce federal immigration laws.
The Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD), along with several local churches, has declared itself a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.
“The Governing Board of the Pasadena Unified School District declares that every Pasadena Unified School District site is a safe place for its students and their families to seek help, assistance and information if faced with fear and anxiety about related immigration enforcement efforts,” states the resolution passed by a unanimous Board of Education on Dec. 22. “District personnel shall not inquire about a student’s immigration status, including that of family members. Any request by ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) for information or to access a school site shall be immediately forwarded to the Superintendent and General Counsel for review and a decision on whether to allow access to the site and provision of information.”
Trump’s order does not mention schools, but states cities and states “that fail to comply with applicable Federal law do not receive Federal funds, except as mandated by law.”
More specifically, it mandates that “the Attorney General and the [Homeland Security] Secretary, in their discretion and to the extent consistent with law, shall ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary,” the executive order states.
In 2016, Pasadena received $34 million in federal funds, which are being used for a wide variety of programs, including public safety, housing and transportation.
Mermell said it’s up to the City Council to decide on what stance to take on the issue.
“They would have to decide if we are officially a sanctuary city,” Mermell said.
Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez told the Pasadena Weekly in December that the department would not stop people or question their immigration status during encounters.
Mayors in Los Angeles, Boston and New York have vowed to challenge the presidential order, saying Supreme Court cases make it difficult for Washington to punitively withdraw funds from state and local governments.
“We feel very strongly that the legal case is clear,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told reporters after the president’s executive order was announced.