What Could the New Administration Mean for Education in California and the SFUSD?, responding to questions we received about impacts of some of then President-elect Donald Trump's policy proposals. Now that President Trump has been sworn into office we have an update: some new information on the topic of sanctuary cities.
What would the proposal to withhold all federal funds to sanctuary cities mean for San Francisco?
In November we responded to speculation about how Trump might fulfill his pledge to defund sanctuary cities like San Francisco, and noted that most federal funding to states and cities could not be cut without going through Congress. That is still the case; however, last week on January 25, 2017, Trump signed an executive order which included a provision ordering the attorney general to withhold federal grants to "sanctuary jurisdictions."
How much is at stake?
Federal funds constitute $1.3 billion, or about 13%, of San Francisco's budget.
What does this mean for San Francisco?
We still don't know how this executive order will play out, but it looks like there may be a long battle in the courts. Mayor Ed Lee and SFUSD's Interim Superintendent Myong Leigh made statements following the release of Trump's executive order reconfirming their strong commitment to sanctuary city policies, regardless of this potential fiscal impact. On January 31, 2017, City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit on behalf of the City of San Francisco against President Donald Trump, enumerating several reasons that the executive order and the immigration law it seeks to enforce should be declared unconstitutional and unenforceable. The suit also argues that, technically speaking, San Francisco is following the federal law on immigration and should not be subject to any withholding of funds, even if it was constitutional to do so. The main constitutional argument is made under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution which guarantees state sovereignty and has been interpreted by courts to mean that the Federal Government cannot outsource its work to states or cities. This would include, according to the complaint, financially coercing a city into "imprisoning individuals at the request of the Federal government when these individuals would otherwise be released from custody."
It is likely to be some time before a final decision is made on the constitutionality of the executive order, but in the meantime, federal funds most at risk of being cut are those for three law enforcement programs administered by the Federal Government which could be cut without Congressional approval. The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (JAG), the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), and the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), all of which are administered by the Department of Justice.
At the SFUSD Board of Education Budget and Business Services meeting on February 1, 2017, it was noted that "worst case scenario" options have not been projected by SFUSD. In other words, it is unclear what would happen if federal education funds were cut or drastically reduced from the current SFUSD budget. SFUSD received $28.7 million in federal funds this fiscal year, less than 3% of SFUSD's total operating budget. These funds are "restricted" and therefore must be used for specific programs, such as those supporting low income students, English learners, and students receiving special education services. SFUSD also receives about $500,000 in unrestricted federal funds, some of which are used to offset costs of Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) programs.
Here are some resources we found helpful on the issue of defunding sanctuary cities: