The Tenth Amendment, the Tea Party and sanctuary cities are three things that one wouldn’t imagine having much in common. But they do – perhaps now more than ever.
A few years ago conservatives pointed to the Tenth Amendment, which safeguards states’ rights, as a bulwark against orders from the Obama administration.
Now that amendment is being used against them.
This week, President Donald Trump repeated his threat to pull federal funding to sanctuary cities. Mayors of those cities responded by citing the Tenth Amendment in their vows to defy his immigration order.
Lynn Rambo, law professor at Texas A&M University, says that the Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government cannot “commandeer” state governments by compelling them to help enforce federal law.
“[Cities’] biggest concern under the Tenth Amendment has to do with the federal government essentially getting the states to do its immigration enforcement work,” Rambo says.
Mayors are arguing that the federal government would be commandeering local law enforcement agencies by requiring them to assist in the deportation process.
Rambo says that mayors won’t be able to take this issue before a judge until there is an actual cutoff of funding or if a cutoff is imminent. For now, they’ll have to wait and see how Trump intends to cut federal funding.
“It’s unclear from the executive order how exactly this would take place,” she says of Trump’s threat. “And that’s part of the problem. President Trump is doing something that is really legislative in nature here, rather than executive.”
Trump’s threat also brings up other constitutional questions.
“There are other constitutional problems that have not gotten quite as much play with respect to how expressed these conditions for the funding have been [and] how connected they are to the purpose of the funds being given in the first place,” Rambo says.
Written by Molly Smith.