Following recent ICE arrests of 680 individuals in the Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio, and New York City areas, Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) introduced a bill to nullify the effect of President Donald Trump’s Executive Order, “Enhancing Public Security in the Interior of the United States.”  The E.O. “makes the vast majority of unauthorized individuals priorities for removal and aims to withhold critical Federal funding to sanctuary cities.”

The bill was introduced on February 16, the same day that thousands of immigrants nationwide, naturalized citizens and undocumented workers alike, staged a grassroots boycott to emphasize what it would be like to have a “Day Without Immigrants.” While cities did not “grind to a halt,” in certain areas, restaurants were closed, large numbers of children stayed home from school, and some nonunion construction sites were shut down.  Trump’s interest in deportation and reforming immigration laws has sparked concern not only among immigrants, but also among employers (including developers and contractors who often rely on immigrants to provide skilled labor especially in an expanding construction market).

DHS Secretary John Kelly stated that the enforcement actions were routine, not prompted by the Executive Order, and were aimed at those who posed public safety threats, “such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members, as well as individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who illegally re-entered the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges.”  He said that approximately 75 percent of those arrested were criminal aliens. Reports that the Trump Administration is considering mobilizing up to 100,000 National Guard troops to participate in a nationwide immigration enforcement effort have been vehemently denied by the White House. In Fact, a Memorandum signed by Kelly on February 17, but not yet reviewed by the White House, states that INA will make agreements with states to authorize “qualified officers or employees of the state…to perform the functions of an immigration officer in relation to the investigation, apprehension, or detention of aliens in the United States.” There is no specific mention of National Guard troops or of state militia.

Trump’s Executive Order on enhancing security not only expands the definition of aliens who can be deported, but also threatens to deny federal funding to jurisdictions that do not cooperate with immigration enforcement efforts. These jurisdictions, known as “sanctuary cities,” have community policing policies that encourage all community members to cooperate with police to help solve and prevent crimes. One step in accomplishing this goal is to gain trust by pledging not to provide information about immigration status of non-criminals to immigration enforcement agencies. Senator Duckworth emphasized the importance of sanctuary cities and stated that “[o]rdering local officials to needlessly tear families apart is unacceptable—and it compromises public safety in communities across Illinois by fostering mistrust and suspicion between local law enforcement and the communities they serve and protect.” San Francisco and Boston have filed federal lawsuits seeking to bar the enforcement of this part of the Executive Order.