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In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., faith leaders, and immigration and legal advocates came together to condemn the institutional oppression of marginalized communities and hold a "Jericho Walk" in Washington Square Park in 2018. (Photo: Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

'What a Threat!': In Latest Effort to Exploit Pandemic, Trump Indicates He May Condition State Coronavirus Aid on Sanctuary City Policies

"No matter what issue the solution is the same for Trump, Miller, Kushner and other white nationalists. Build walls, end immigration, punish sanctuary cities..."

Julia Conley

Immigrant rights advocates on Tuesday condemned President Donald Trump for suggesting that his administration could withhold coronavirus relief funding for certain states containing sanctuary cities.

Twice on Tuesday, the president said that when examining the amount of aid states should get as local and state economies are largely shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, his administration would consider whether each state has sanctuary cities, municipalities where officials refuse to work with federal immigration agents to arrest undocumented immigrants.

The administration, Trump said, would assess if states are financially struggling due to the pandemic and if policies and programs the president doesn't support could be to blame for economic strains. 

"I think there's a big difference between a state that lost money because of Covid and a state that's been run very badly for 25 years," Trump told reporters at the White House. "We'd have to talk about things like sanctuary cities, as an example."

The ACLU viewed the comment as a clear sign that Trump administration officials will "exploit a public health crisis to further their anti-immigrant agenda."

The president has railed against sanctuary cities many times during his administration, saying last year that all undocumented immigrants should be sent to those communities—a threat which one sanctuary city mayor, Jim Kenney of Philadelphia, said he would welcome with open arms.

In February, the administration began deploying CBP agents to sanctuary cities to begin 24-hour surveillance operations near the homes and workplaces of undocumented immigrants. 

Trump's remarks on Tuesday, tweeted American University professor and author Cathy Lisa Schneider, reveal that "no matter what issue, the solution is the same for Trump, Miller, Kushner and other white nationalists."

Later on Tuesday, Trump reiterated the threat, telling reporters that if a state's financial difficulties are Covid-related, the administration "could talk about" relief, but adding, "We'd want certain things also, including sanctuary city adjustments."

Ashton Pittman, a journalist at the Mississippi Free Press, noted that legal scholar Pamela Karlan directly warned during the president's impeachment hearings about Trump retaliating against states for policies he disagrees with.

"What would you think if...your governor asked for a meeting with the president to discuss getting disaster aid that Congress has provided for?" Karlan asked while testifying before Congress. "What would you think if that president said, 'I would like you to do us a favor?"

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