PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – If you think the executive order President Donald Trump signed Wednesday threatening to withhold federal funds for sanctuary cities means Providence has automatically lost $70 million, you are wrong.
But that doesn’t mean Mayor Jorge Elorza and the City Council should rest easy.
Trump’s order essentially gets the ball moving on a campaign pledge to target communities around the country that don’t fully cooperate with the requests of federal immigration officers. But the details of his plan aren’t totally clear.
It threatens the federal funding that communities depend on to hire cops and firefighters, educate children, provide affordable housing and assist the disabled. And it allows the secretary of homeland security to determine what is and is not a sanctuary city. But it also makes it clear Trump wants to focus on individuals who have already committed crimes in the country or are a threat to commit a crime in the future.
- Related: Providence’s policy on illegal immigration
- Also: Elorza vows to protect undocumented immigrants
- Follow: Providence politics on Facebook
In Providence’s case, the illegal immigration issue is complicated. The city’s public officials have resisted attempts in the past to approve resolutions or ordinances that would have provided ID cards to undocumented residents, prohibited city employees from profiling undocumented people, and blocked police from inquiring about a person’s immigration status without a court order.
But as Elorza said Wednesday, the city doesn’t “extend ourselves and go out of our way” to enforce immigration laws – which basically means Providence police won’t detain undocumented people without a federal warrant. (That means minor infractions like driving without a license rarely result in a deportation unless an existing warrant is in place.)
Elorza said he believes Providence does “cooperate and comply with all federal law,” which includes entering the fingerprints of anyone who is arrested into a database that is monitored by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency that typically handles deportation cases. If ICE secures a warrant from a judge, the city will detain an undocumented person. But the city won’t hold someone for an extended period of time while ICE attempts to secure a warrant.
So if the mayor is right that Providence already complies with immigration law, the city has nothing to worry about. If he’s wrong and the city is labeled a sanctuary jurisdiction, here’s a look at what Providence stands to lose.
(Eyewitness News reviewed Providence’s “Schedule of Expenditures of Federal Awards” publication for the 2013, 2014 and 2015 fiscal years. The 2016 fiscal year isn’t expected to be made available until next month.)
Total federal funding in Providence
2015: $71.3 million
2014: $74.8 million
2013: $86.8 million
A breakdown of 2015 federal funding
U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development – $6.2 million
This included $4.1 million for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), which is the lifeblood for many nonprofit organizations in the city. It also included $810,000 for housing opportunities for people with AIDS, $382,000 for controlling lead levels in private housing and more than $200,000 in planning grants.
U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services – $959,000
This bulk of this money went toward the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which provides basic support – shelter, food, utilities – to struggling families. (It’s the successor to the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children program.) The city also received $109,000 for substance abuse programs.
National Endowment for the Arts – $40,000
This provided small grants to organizations and individuals.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – $424,000
This included funds left over from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, or the stimulus. The EPA funds went toward grants to ensure clean drinking water.
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture – $15.6 million
The vast majority of this money went to school lunch and breakfast programs because, you know, kids have to eat.
U.S. Dept. of Education – $41 million
This was by far the largest amount of aid from any federal department that comes to Providence. More than half of this money came in the form of Title I grants, which are earmarked for districts that serve a large percentage of financially-disadvantaged students. Then there was $6.3 million for special education. The city also received funding through the Obama administration’s Race to the Top and School Improvement Grant (SIG) programs as well as about $3.2 million to improve teacher quality.
U.S. Dept. of Labor – $4 million
Roughly half of the money came through the federal Workforce Investment Act, a 1999 law that was designed to build a more skilled workforce throughout the country. Another $758,000 was used for health care tax credits and $101,000 went toward people with disabilities.
U.S. Dept. of Transportation – $669,000
Nearly all of this money went toward highway planning and construction.
U.S. Dept. of Justice – $630,000
From community policing grants to transitional housing for victims of domestic violence, this funding was earmarked exclusively for public safety.
U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security – $1.7 million
The city received an $898,000 grant to provide assistance to firefighters as well as a $481,000 reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for weather-related disasters. Another $103,000 was set aside for security on of the port of Providence.