Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday afternoon that he pulled out from attending a meeting at the White House with President Trump, after the Justice Department threatened to subpoena more than a dozen sanctuary cities.
In a tweet, de Blasio said he would not attend the meeting after the Department of Justice "decided to renew their racist assault on our immigrant communities."
The mayor's staff told NY1 that the decision was made just minutes after the Justice Department demanded documents from 23 so-called sanctuary cities to show whether or not local law enforcement officers are keeping information from federal immigration authorities. If the cities do not comply, the DOJ threatened subpoenas.
De Blasio planned to be among a group of mayors from across the country who were scheduled to attend a 3 p.m. meeting at the White House with a focus on infrastructure.
However, mayors from across the country boycotted the gathering, upset over a letter threatening funding to sanctuary cities.
Mitch Landrieu, the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said the Justice Department's demands made the meeting "untenable."
"When the President is prepared to engage in an honest conversation about the future of our shared constituencies, we will be honored to join him," a statement from Landrieu reads, in part.
The Trump administration has promised to move forward with a massive infrastructure program this year, after it went nowhere last year.
During the campaign, Trump promised to revamp roads, bridges, and airports.
The Justice Department sent a letter to the director of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice. Using-mind numbing legalese, the document demands she answer this: Is the NYPD shielding from deportation undocumented immigrants the department arrests?
The Trump administration long has said New York is, and, unless it gets what it wants, the Justice Department is threatening "all lawful tools," as one Justice Department official told NY1.
Among them is that New York return a multimillion dollar crimefighting grant named for a slain NYPD officer.
The Justice Department is investigating whether the city is complying. But it appears that cracking down on undocumented immigrants wasn't a part of getting the grant.
Search "alien" in Frequently Asked Questions about the grant, and you get nothing. In fact, it's only the 2017 grant that requires two new express conditions: Permitting federal agents access local jails to meet with quote aliens, and providing advance notice to agents regarding when an alien may be released. Although it applied, New York City hasn't been approved for the 2017 grant.
A close look also shows that de Blasio is offering misleading information. "The cuts that have been proposed are at minimum in the tens of millions of dollars and would have a very serious impact on our efforts," the mayor said Wednesday.
In fact, the grant is $4.3 million, far less than one percent of a budget that is nearly $86 billion.
The city says other grants provide a bigger total and the Trump administration could stop those.
Amid all the vague legal language and fuzzy math, one thing seems clear: This case is headed to court.
"The federal government's anti-immigrant machinery — the deportation machine — is not after just people who don't have documentation; it is after all immigrants," New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said.
If it does go to court, the city says it's prepared. It says the Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government cannot deny federal funds to localities in cases like this, pointing to a decision over the Affordable Care Act, which was supported by the Chief Justice, who was appointed by a Republican president.