Attacking sanctuary cities is one of Fox News’ anti-immigrant battle cries, with many of the network’s talking points echoing the approach that anti-immigrant nativist organizations champion. These views have now percolated into President-elect Donald Trump’s policy plans, even though the talking points are unsubstantiated by reality.
Sanctuary cities are places where local authorities have enacted ordinances that limit local law enforcement from informing federal immigration authorities of the migratory status of undocumented immigrants. Demonizing the concept has been one of Fox News’ favorite pastimes. The networks’ hosts and anchors routinely misinform on the topic, from Bill O’Reilly saying sanctuary cities cause “anarchy,” Greg Jarrett saying officials in such cities are “breaking the law,” to Eric Bolling asserting that they “ignore federal law.”
Fox News discussions on the topic are likely to include the following set of misleading talking points, as illustrated by this segment on the November 15 edition of Happening Now: Local authorities are breaking federal law by enacting such ordinances; they should be charged; and federal funds should be withheld from such places as punishment.
Fox News’ talking points echo those of extreme anti-immigrant groups with nativist ties, like the Center of Immigrant Studies (CIS), which has praised congressional attempts to “withhold certain federal funds from sanctuary jurisdictions” and which gets invited to send its representatives on Fox to push their extreme views. Another such group is the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which has leaders with ties to white supremacists and which has pushed claims that sanctuary city policies “conflict with federal law.”
Trump has promised to “cancel all federal funding” to sanctuary cities within his first hundred days in office. And that promise is likely to be fulfilled given that his potential cabinet picks include anti-immigrant extremists like Kris Kobach, who has made a career out of pushing such legislation as Arizona's SB 1070 “papers-please” law (which encouraged ethnic profiling) and suing states for granting in-state tuition to undocumented students.
The facts on sanctuary cities are much different from what Fox dishonestly pushes. In reality, according to the Congressional Research Service, local legislation that makes a city or a state a “sanctuary city” does not break federal law. These ordinances are also constitutional “as long as sanctuary communities that choose not to ask about immigration status do not bar volunteer communications and follow other federal requirements,” according to legal experts. Additionally, law enforcement experts have noted that sanctuary cities can help deter crime, since they keep local law enforcement focused on local priorities rather than doing immigration enforcement, a role that historically falls under the responsibility of the federal government.
Even former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a current member of Trump’s transition team, admitted that Fox’s dishonest attacks on sanctuary cities are misguided by defending the similar policies he enacted in New York. Giuliani explained that sanctuary cities reduce crime by shifting the focus to actual immigrant criminals and away from undocumented crime victims who aid police, children whose parents may be undocumented, and undocumented people seeking emergency hospital treatment.
As Emory law professor and attorney Randy Kessler told CNN on the November 16 edition of Erin Burnett Outfront, “The local, state -- municipalities don’t have to do anything over and above enforcing their own laws, and if they are not interested in going to collect immigrants and deport them, then they’re not going to make it easy on Donald Trump or the federal investigators -- federal law enforcement who want to do that”: