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Trump Order: Aiding Undocumented Immigrants A Crime

An executive order signed by President Donald Trump will not only mandate the withholding of federal funding from U.S. localities that do not cooperate with immigration agents, it will also make it a crime for citizens to help undocumented immigrants.

On Jan. 25, Trump signed an executive order titled "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States."

The executive order called for federal grants to be withheld from cities and states whose laws limit local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration agents. These localities are informally known as "sanctuary cities."

Immigration and Customs Enforcement estimates that 165 jurisdictions could be described as sanctuary cities, according to The Atlantic.

While the media coverage of the executive order focused largely on the potential showdown between cities protecting their illegal immigrants and the federal government, the order also criminalizes aiding anyone who is undocumented, Univision reports.

The document states that the secretary of homeland security will issue guidance and regulations to "ensure the assessment and collection of all fines and penalties ... from aliens unlawfully present in the United States and from those who facilitate their presence in the United States."

The order did not specify what fines or penalties that anyone who helps an undocumented immigrant would incur, but it echoes an early draft of SB1070, a controversial Arizona bill that became state law in 2010.

That legislation originally called for the criminalization of harboring or shielding undocumented immigrants, listing it as a Class One misdemeanor and punishable by a maximum fine of $2,500 and six months in jail.

The provision was ultimately removed from SB1070, but the law remained a source of national controversy. The bill ordered Arizona law enforcement to demand identification from anyone they suspected of being undocumented, a provision that was protested as discriminatory. The law faced numerous legal challenges and its mandate on seeking identification was ultimately stripped in September 2016, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Executive director Petra Falcon of Promise Arizona believes that Trump's executive order will make the divisive SB1070 federal law.

"Unfortunately we are seeing the same thing again," Falcon said. "We already lived in this in our state in 2010. Now we see that the government of Trump is imitating this practice."

On Jan. 31, the city of San Francisco filed a lawsuit against Trump's executive order on the grounds that it is unconstitutional, CNN reports.

"The president's executive order is not only unconstitutional, it's un-American," City Attorney Dennis Herrera of San Francisco said. "This country was founded on the principle that the federal government cannot force state and local governments to do its job for it, like carrying out immigration policy."

Sources: The Atlantic, CNN, Los Angeles TimesUnivision / Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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