UPDATE: As of May 2017, Congress chose not to pass legislation that would have allowed Trump to defund sanctuary cities.
This week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to take back $4 billion in federal aid to sanctuary cities, including New York City, Syracuse, Ithaca, and Rochester. Those cities have said they will not help Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enforce federal immigration laws.
What’s the big deal?
Over 5 million immigrants were deported under Obama but his administration focused on criminals and people caught crossing the border. While campaigning, President Donald Trump criticized this focus and promised to create a “deportation force” to remove undocumented immigrants. In February, he issued rules to make it easier for ICE to deport immigrants (both documented and undocumented), including people who hadn’t committed a serious crime. This even included people who had filed for DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, under Obama. Also called Dreamers, these are people who were born abroad but arrived in the US as children and grew up here. Trump’s so-called “Muslim bans” on travelers from several majority-Muslim Middle Eastern countries have also fueled this alarm, though court orders have stopped those for the moment.