The $870 Million Question

In January, President Trump signed an Executive Order blocking sanctuary jurisdictions from receiving certain federal funding. Some 300 jurisdictions across the nation maintain policies that protect illegal aliens and/or impede the ability of the federal government to enforce immigration laws. These policies are expressly prohibited under federal statutes.

The Center for American Progress (CAP), which had a revolving door with the Obama administration and was a key player in formulating the former president’s immigration policies, has very helpfully quantified how much sanctuary jurisdictions stand to lose if they persist in these policies. It has also identified which programs and federal grants will be affected. By CAP’s estimation, $870 million a year is at stake for state and local politicians as they decide whether keep the cash or preserve their ideological chastity.

Some jurisdictions, like Miami-Dade County, Florida, and Dayton, Ohio, immediately opted to keep the flow of federal dollars coming their way and dropped their sanctuary policies. Others, where coddling illegal aliens is not just an ideology, but their seeming raison d’être, have decided to play a very expensive game of chicken with a president who is not known for backing down.

Unsurprisingly, California, which is one big 163,696 square mile sanctuary jurisdiction and a fiscal mess, stands to lose the most federal money overall, $239.5 million. On a per capita basis, New Yorkers would be the biggest losers as their state would forfeit $191 million in federal program and grant money.

In the most hardcore sanctuary jurisdictions, local politicians are going to face some very difficult choices: abandon their cherished sanctuary policies and alienate their political base, or abandon hundreds of millions of desperately needed federal dollars and alienate voters who would rather their elected officials focused on keeping the lights on. The first such showdown is likely to come in President Trump’s home town, New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio is up for reelection in November. Due in part to the city’s unconditional welcome mat for illegal aliens, the Big Apple is staring at a $3.8 billion budget gap by FY 2019 (the second year of the mayor’s second term, if the voters decide to give him one).

Of course, it’s hard to feel too sorry for the political leaders who are going to be forced to make these hard choices. They knew that the policies they were adopting were a violation of federal law, but they did so anyway, believing that their political gestures would come without consequence. Now, it seems, there will be a price to pay – $870 million a year, according to CAP – and whatever they decide will make a lot of people very unhappy.

About Author


Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.


  1. avatar
    George Peabody on

    ARREST illegal alien usurper Barack H. Obama aka Barry Soetoro to NDAA Prison for TREASON, I.D. Fraud Voter Fraud, Immigration Violation, SS# Fraud, Murder, ETC! Install CC camera connected to internet one way view looking in on Obama from Americans and the World to keep Obama from escaping. Pay 4 View at 10¢ of Obama in prison writing his $20-M memoirs with a pencil on toilet paper will raise so much money Americans will never again have to pay taxes. Add in Clintons and Soros, and the Pay4View will be so popular that the $20-Trillion Debt will be paid off in 5-years. Arrest them NOW! Pay4View online!

  2. avatar

    The first time one of these sanctuary cities, counties, states, employers, universities misses a big paycheck they will be crying, no, no, no, we didn’t mean it. OK, we’ll reinstate the payments, but it won’t take effect until the next payment date, then they’ll be scrambling to make up the loss.

  3. avatar
    Not Politically Correct on

    We should take this money we don’t give to the sanctuary cities and put it towards building the wall.

  4. avatar

    The reason Miami Dade County does not want to cross swords with Trump is because of the huge amount of welfare money that goes to that county, specifically the Cuban community. The South Florida Sun Sentinel did 2 series of stories in 2015 about how people come here from Cuba and immediately receive all kinds of cash payments. Even elderly who never contributed a penny to our system come here for a “visit” and don’t return home and then apply for SSI. The paper estimated costs of 600 million yearly.

    Another report outlined how Cubans come here and commit massive amounts of economic crimes, far above their share of the population, and then skip back to Cuba. Naturally Obama made no demands that the Cuban government extradite those people when he normalized relations [meaning he caved completely] with the Castro brothers. The one good thing he did do was end the wet foot dry foot policy, which essentially meant we had to take anyone and everyone.

  5. avatar

    Here is an easy answer:
    Keep POLICE functions separate from
    PRISON functions:
    The POLICE should never ask for papers.
    But the PRISON should always identify
    anyone who is arrested,
    including what citizenship that individuals holds.

    instead of SANCTUARY CITIES?
    The expression “sanctuary cities”
    might be taken to mean
    that foreign nationals
    will not be arrested for ordinary crimes.
    Not so.
    All crimes will be investigated
    and laws will be enforced.
    The mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota
    suggests a new expression:
    What most of these cities really mean
    is that there will be OFFICIAL SEPARATION
    between the POLICE functions
    and the PRISON functions.
    If and when any individual
    (regardless of citizenship)
    is arrested for probable cause,
    then FULL IDENTIFICATION of this individual
    should be obtained
    —explicitly including country of citizenship.
    Booking includes taking a picture of the person arrested
    and creating a set of fingerprints,
    which are automatically compared
    with other fingerprints kept by the FBI.
    If this person is wanted for any other crimes,
    then that fact will be taken into account
    for all future cooperation
    with other agencies of law-enforcement.
    In short, the POLICE can do their work
    without ever asking for immigration status.
    (This protects all who cooperate with the police.)
    But if and when some criminal suspect is ARRESTED,
    then the full identity of that suspect
    should be explored by the PRISON authorities.
    On the STREET, no one is asked about citizenship.
    But in JAIL, all suspects are completely identified.
    The federal government should have no problems
    with such SEPARATION CITIES.
    Both sides of the debate get what they want:
    The city police do not arrest anyone for immigration violations.
    Once in custody for ordinary crimes,
    the prison authorities fully identify the suspects
    and cooperate with all other levels of law-enforcement.
    One additional administrative way to achieve this SEPARATION
    already exists in many locations:
    The CITY sets policy for the local POLICE.
    And the COUNTY sets policy for the local JAIL.
    Property taxes support both levels of government,
    but there are different governing bodies
    —perhaps a city council
    and a county board of commissioners.
    And even when the same governing body sets both policies,
    they can clearly SEPARATE the POLICE PRACTICES
    from the PRISON PRACTICES.
    When all local and state jails and prisons cooperate
    with all levels of national law-enforcement,
    there should be no threat of withholding federal funds
    from any such SEPARATION CITIES.

    • avatar

      Are you serious?….give me proof….it is the other way around the IAs are putting money int your SS…

      • avatar

        With Social Security Numbers Obtained With Identity Theft?

        More importantly, they ship a lot of their money to their motherlands working here and destroying our American hopes of economic revival from THAT MONEY.