President Donald Trump’s executive order to punish sanctuary cities – those that protect and offer asylum to undocumented immigrants – could cut federal funding for the District. City agencies, including public schools, health, and social services agencies, utilized primarily by Black residents, could be negatively impacted.

Protesters march near the White House in Washington, protesting the immigration policies of President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

According to Trump’s announcement, jurisdictions that prevent police officers from inquiring into the immigration status of residents, or refuse to cooperate with federal deportation efforts, contribute to harboring potential criminals and should be held accountable.

“Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” cities that do not comply with federal immigration enforcement agents “are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary,” according to the executive order.

At stake for the District are more than $1 billion in federal grants set aside for D.C. Public Schools and the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education for a combined $267.6 million; the D.C. Department of Human Services, $172.6 million; and the D.C. Department of Health, $128.2 million.

During a White House news conference on Jan. 25, press secretary Sean Spicer said the order punishes cities that “willfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States. The American people are no longer going to have to be forced to subsidize this disregard for our laws.”

The Order, said Spicer, directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to look at federal funding to cities to figure out “how we can defund those streams.”

The District issues provisional driver’s licenses to illegal residents, police do not ask about residency status, and earlier this month Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced the creation of a legal defense fund to help immigrants. City officials believe the administration would not cut the majority of those funds because they cover Medicaid reimbursements, plus law enforcement costs, which are exempt under the order.

“Anything that suggests that the U.S. government will not work with an American city is worrisome, as there are a lot of things that we do as a city in partnership with our government,” Bowser said at the press conference. “We would object to anything that the federal government would do to a local jurisdiction that would make it less safe and we believe that having a D.C. resident afraid to call on the police or the government makes our city less safe.”

Bowser went on to say that Trump’s executive order included a lot of ambiguity in language and required the city’s lawyers to examine it more fully to determine what it meant for the District. Monies set aside in the coffers of the city’s “Rainy Day” fund, however, would most likely not be used to cover any shortfalls generated from Trump’s order.

“Until we know how the federal government attempts to enforce this order, we do not know what it means. You should keep in mind that rainy day funds are committed to taking care of priorities that we have established in case of an emergency within the city,” Bowser said. “There is not money just sitting around waiting for us to spend on a threat.”

Since his election, local officials in at least 18 major “sanctuary” cities have pledged to limit their cooperation with federal immigration officials. By one estimate, 12 of these cities account for roughly 20 percent of all undocumented immigrants in the United States.