Mayor: NYC will fight Trump on crackdown on sanctuary cities

NEW YORK (AP) — The nation's biggest city is prepared to challenge President Donald Trump's crackdown on immigrant-protecting "sanctuary cities" with legal action if necessary, New York's mayor said Wednesday, arguing Trump's move could undermine public safety.

Trump's order strips some federal grant money from "sanctuary cities." In his hometown, it could yank over $150 million in law enforcement funding that's mainly for counterterrorism efforts, protecting the United Nations and international missions, and, arguably, safeguarding Trump Tower, New York City officials said.

They also argued the order would harm policing in general, by making immigrants reluctant to talk to the New York Police Department as witnesses or even victims of crime.

"The sum total would be an unfair action that would cause a rift between the NYPD and the communities it serves, while simultaneously taking resources away from the NYPD that it uses to keep us safe," Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The order also contradicts "the character and values" of a city and nation long known for welcoming immigrants, he added.

The Republican president, however, said the nation was regaining "control of its borders" as he signed orders Wednesday concerning the "sanctuary city" funding and jumpstarting construction of his promised U.S.-Mexico border wall.

No formal definition of a "sanctuary city" exists. The term generally refers to cities that don't fully cooperate with immigration authorities, sometimes by declining requests from immigration officials to hold onto potential deportees who would otherwise be released from jail.

New York, for example, doesn't honor such detainment requests unless there's a federal warrant and the person requested may be on the terrorist watch list or committed a serious crime in the past five years. About 170 crimes qualify, de Blasio said.

The city didn't immediately have information on how many people have been held and turned over in the last few years.

"We're not going to allow our police officers to be used as immigration enforcement agents," de Blasio said. "We are going to defend all our people, regardless of where they come from and ... regardless of their documentation status."

Some other cities and advocates have vowed legal action. Some federal courts have found that local jurisdictions cannot hold immigrants beyond their jail term or deny them bond based only a request from immigration authorities.

New York, for now, is waiting to see what comes of the order. But de Blasio and chief city lawyer Zachary Carter said they felt the city was on solid ground for a legal challenge if needed.

The city's overall budget this year is over $84 billion.