President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he might withhold federal coronavirus aid from any states refusing to comply with his administration’s immigration policies.
“If it’s COVID-related, I guess we can talk about it, but we’d want certain things also, including sanctuary-city adjustments,” he told a White House event meant to promote measures to help businesses during the pandemic.
“That’s one of the things I think about,” he added. “If we were going to do something for the states, I think they’d probably want something having to do with sanctuary cities and other different points that we can discuss a little later on.”
Sanctuary cities and states have policies to refuse or limit cooperation with the federal government’s immigration enforcement. Trump has long criticized them for not complying with his administration’s hard-line measures.
The US has 11 sanctuary states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. There are also sanctuary cities and counties in other states that don’t have such policies.
Both Democratic and Republican governors have called for federal aid to help states cover massive budget shortfalls caused by the coronavirus crisis.
But the issue has become the focus of partisan controversy, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week saying that states with shortfalls should consider declaring bankruptcy, in what criticssay is an idea designedto hand greater control over state budgets to the federal government.
Trump has long railed against cities that have resisted complying with his hard-line anti-migrant policies, often arguing that such cities shield dangerous criminals from prosecution and deportation.
In March, as the coronavirus crisis began to worsen, Trump said he wouldwithhold some federal moneyfrom states that defied his administration’s immigration policies after a federal court ruled that such a move would be lawful.