Sanctuary cities in danger of losing federal funding

Since president-elect Donald Trump promised to end federal funding to sanctuary cities many city and county leaders around the country have been wondering what that might mean for them. The term sanctuary city doesn’t have a legal definition. Jurisdictions that consider themselves sanctuary cities generally have policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center has identified 364 counties and 39 cities that have policies limiting cooperation with federal immigration officials. For many jurisdictions, this means declining to hold suspected undocumented immigrants past their scheduled release dates. Some jurisdictions have laws preventing police officers from asking the immigration status of residents. Often this policy is implemented to encourage immigrant communities to report crimes or cooperate with police.

The president-elect and many other proponents of tougher immigration enforcement have said sanctuary city policies allow criminals to go free. Undocumented immigrants could commit more crimes that would have been prevented if they had been deported.

The federal funding in danger of being pulled has not been specified. Federal law currently prohibits any agency from restraining the exchange of information among federal, state and local agencies regarding the immigration status of individuals. The code specifies jurisdictions in violation could be denied grants from the justice department. The federal funding in question could be limited to some justice department funds for police departments or a new federal policy could be created to include all federal funding going to jurisdictions designated as sanctuary cities.

San Francisco is a high-profile sanctuary city with $1 billion, or 10 percent of the city’s budget, coming directly from the federal government or from state programs using federal funds. The city has had laws in place to protect undocumented immigrants for 27 years. In 2005, in a case Trump has referred to multiple times as a reason for ending sanctuary cities, an undocumented immigrant allegedly killed a San Francisco woman after being released from sheriff’s custody.

“We have been and always will be a city of refuge, a city of sanctuary, a city of love,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee at a recent unity rally.

The San Francisco Police Department receives around $52 million from the state and $2.8 million directly from the federal government. The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department receives around $27.5 million from the state and $100,000 from the federal government.

Federal funding accounts for 25 percent of the budget for the District of Columbia, which makes it the sanctuary city with the largest percent of its budget in danger. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser reaffirmed the District’s designation as a sanctuary city in November. The city has a policy not to ask residents about their immigration status.

Denver received $175 million of its city budget from federal funding. Of that $5.4 million has come from justice department funds. The police department released a recent statement that read “Immigration enforcement is handled at the federal level — not by local law enforcement. The Denver Police Department has not participated in those enforcement efforts in the past and will not be involved in the future.”

Critics of sanctuary cities were quick to respond to statements issued by many jurisdictions indicating no change in policies that could be considered providing sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.

Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke recently wrote an opinion column, published in The Hill, in which he took on the leaders of sanctuary cities. Suggesting leaders of sanctuary cities could be prosecuted for their policies.

“It’s time for stand up for the existing federal rule of law. We must have zero-tolerance for people coming into the United States illegally and setting up residence. The first prosecution and conviction of one of these governors, mayors or university presidents vowing to be a sanctuary for illegal aliens will cause all but those wanting to be sacrificial lambs for the cause to cease this dangerous and willful disregard for our nation’s sovereignty.”


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Tolling technology becomes more interoperable 

As tolls have become a more popular solution for transportation challenges in states and municipalities across the country, industry groups and citizens have been calling for more interoperability. Currently, drivers who use tollways operated by different agencies may have to acquire different transponders for each system.

As part of the Moving Ahead for Program in the 21st Century Act, congress called for electronic tolling interoperability. Industry groups like the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) have been working with the Federal Highway Administration to help develop an industry standard for tolling systems. The group plans to make a formal recommendation next year.

IBTTA officials call for a national toll system that allows drivers to establish a single toll account that would allow for payments on all US toll facilities. Officials presented the following statement before the US House of Representative’s oversight and government reform committee:

“We envision that a driver who has a valid registered account with any electronic toll collection (ETC) system (i.e. E-ZPass, SunPass, TxTag, FasTrak, etc.) can have their vehicle identified seamlessly in the electronic toll lanes of any other ETC system using a required National Toll Tag (which would also be associated with their existing account) and have the appropriate fees deducted from their account.”

A key goal of the electronic tolling interoperability effort is that the national toll protocol ultimately selected will be non-proprietary. No special licensing or fees will be needed for those manufacturing or acquiring such devices.

One system being tested is the  ISO 18000-6C radio-frequency identification (RFID) air-interface protocol. The protocol, referred to as 6C, was developed for systems focused on inventory management and asset tracking. A second finalist undergoing testing is the Open Standard Time Division Multiplexing protocol (TDM). Agencies in Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio, Utah and Washington use 6C.  TDM is used by 37 agencies in 16 states.

President elect’s infrastructure plan calls for increase in P3s

President-elect Donald Trump has promised to make a $1 trillion in infrastructure investments a top priority for him as president. He reaffirmed that pledge in his Nov. 9 victory speech and signs point to public-private partnerships (P3/PPP) as a significant component to his infrastructure plan.

“We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it,” said Trump.

Some of the infrastructure policies laid out by Trump include:

  • a deficit-neutral plan for new infrastructure investments;
  • supporting investment in transportation, clean water, a modern and reliable electricity grid, telecommunications, security infrastructure, and other pressing domestic infrastructure needs;
  • offering maximum flexibility to the states;
  • creating thousands of new jobs in construction, steel manufacturing and other sectors;
  • leveraging new revenues and working with financing authorities, P3s and other prudent funding opportunities;
  • implementing a bold, visionary plan for a cost-effective system of roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, railroads, ports and waterways and pipelines in the tradition of President Dwight D. Eisenhower;
  • linking increases in spending to reforms that streamline permitting and approvals; and
  • linking increased investments with positive reforms to infrastructure programs that reduce waste and cut costs.

An initial move by the president-elect to see those policies through was to name Martin Whitmer to his transition team to oversee transportation and infrastructure. Whitmer is the chairman of a Washington law firm which lobbies for the Association of American Railroads and the National Asphalt Pavement Association. He was previously deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Just prior to the election, Trump economic advisors Wilber Ross and Peter Navarro released a report detailing his infrastructure plan. The plan calls for spending $1 trillion over ten years with much funding provided by private contractors. These contractors would be incentivized to invest in infrastructure projects through federal tax credits and usage fees, such as tolls. The plan would add nothing to the national debt. Investors would receive an 82 percent tax credit on equity invested in infrastructure paired with federally subsidized loans at a 5-to-1 leverage ratio.

Experts are divided on the practicality of the plan with some calling it a step in the right direction and others offering criticisms. Some economists said the tax cuts would indeed add to the deficit in the long run. Others pointed to projects that would not be appropriate for usage fees. Critics have also said that congress has not been as interested in infrastructure as Trump seems to be and he might face some resistance in getting legislation passed to support his plan.

With or without the support of the president-elect or congress, P3s have been gaining momentum in recent years. The National Law Review recently published an article detailing three factors spurring the popularity of the model. The need to repair aging infrastructure in the U.S. has continued to grow. Public funds for improvements have been diminishing. Lastly, P3s success stories in the U.S. and abroad have become widely known.

Trump’s focus on infrastructure, and the use of P3s to meet infrastructure needs, can only serve to increase awareness of critically needed improvements.


Want to read more stories like this one? Check out the most recent editions of Government Contracting Pipeline and Texas Government Insider. SPI’s government contracting consultants assist firms of all types in selling to governmentContact them today.