Elected officials rail against Trump threat to cut funding

Rep. Jose E. Serrano, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and City Councilman Rafael Salamanca on the steps of the State Supreme Court building on the Grand Concourse on Jan. 26. Photo: Joe Hirsch

Elected officials say they will protect New Yorkers’ interests if Donald Trump tries to cut off funding to the Big Apple because of its status as a sanctuary city, as the president has threatened to do. The president signed an executive order on Wednesday saying he would slash federal funds to US cities that defy federal immigration enforcement.

Federal policy calls for local law enforcement to detain undocumented people charged with committing crimes and hand them over to federal authorities for deportation. 

At a press conference on the steps of the Supreme Court building on the Grand Concourse on Jan. 26, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said that “no other county would suffer more” than the Bronx if the president imposes “potential cuts of over $8 billion” in federal funds. Diaz warned that if those cuts are made, the city’s education and health care systems would take big hits.

The officials consistently questioned the president’s credibility.

“This president continuously tells us things that are just not true,” said Rep. Jose E. Serrano, whose district includes the South Bronx. “Instead of building housing we’re going to be building a wall (on the border between the US and Mexico) that we don’t need.”

Any measures the federal government takes to ratchet up deportations will sow fear and hurt the innocent, said Serrano.

“If you’re afraid the police are going to become immigration officials, you won’t speak to anybody,” he said. NYPD officers cannot ask victims filing charges about their immigration status, under present policy.

“This is about legalizing profiling,” said Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, insisting that “we will pass the Dream Act,” referring to a proposed policy to grant conditional residency for some who undocumented immigrants.

City Councilman Rafael Salamanca, who represents Hunts Point and Melrose, said that the city will continue to fund Planned Parenthood despite the Trump administration’s promise to defund that organization. He added that an immigration attorney will continue to provide free legal consultations out of Salamanca’s district office on Southern Boulevard two days per week, regardless of constituents’ legal status.

“We must continue to resist,” said Salamanca.

Despite rising anxiety over the president’s threatened cuts, it remains unclear whether the administration could legally carry them out.

“We don’t know exactly what that means,” said Diaz about the cuts, and added that “legal precedents” favoring sanctuary cities could help prevent Trump from following through.

At a separate press conference at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in Manhattan later that afternoon to address the city’s financial state in the shadow of looming cuts, City Comptroller Scott Stringer said the city could lose $156 million from the Dept. of Homeland Security and an additional $9 million from the Dept. of Justice for counterterrorism initiatives. But rumors that the city could lose up to $8 billion are unfounded, he added.

“I don’t think we’ll be anywhere near that,” said Stringer. Still, the comptroller predicted that wrangling with Washington over federal dollars is “going to be part of the discussion for the next few years.”

“We have to do everything we can to preserve democracy,” he said, labeling the Trump administration as “idiotic. It’s just an embarrassment to this country.”