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$153 Million in Federal, State Grants Could Be at Stake if San Antonio Becomes a 'Sanctuary City'


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If the threats made last week by Gov. Greg Abbott and President Trump ring true, San Antonio could loose up to $153 million in grants if it chooses to become an official "Sanctuary City."

Both Abbott and Trump said they'd pull state and federal grant funding from any city that chooses to treat undocumented immigrants arrested in their community differently than any other resident. Both officials want local law enforcement to instead hold any undocumented immigrant (even if they were just arrested for a minor offense) in jail until a federal immigration agent can come and pick them up — even if their local case was already resolved. A lawsuit filed against the Bexar County jail last year claims this process can take months.

In a memo sent to the mayor and city council last Thursday, City Manager Sheryl Sculley listed each grant the city receives from federal or state coffers. In total, San Antonio could stand to lose $139 million from federal grants and $14 million in state funding — leaving the city with a gaping $153 million hole in the 2017 budget. That would also include 608 grant-funded jobs. An across-the-board cut would disproportionally impact city health, agriculture, housing, and aviation programs — and slash $3 million in grants that fund law enforcement departments.

While San Antonio is not, by definition, a so-called sanctuary city, it appears city leaders are weighing the consequences of protecting its vulnerable immigrant community. It's not San Antonio Police Department policy to question criminal suspects about their immigration status. Once people are booked in Bexar County Jail, however, their fingerprints are sent to a federal database, allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to locate and track any undocumented suspects.

Last week, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus called a bill filed in Austin to crack down on sanctuary cities "damaging to local law enforcement." Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar has made no indication he'll change the way jail officials currently work with ICE (we're still waiting for a response from the sheriff's office on the matter).

In her memo, Sculley said that city council will discuss San Antonio's sanctuary city status — and the related financial ramifications — in the near future.

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