County could lose funds under President-elect Trump’s immigration plan

Greene County could lose an estimated $420,000 a year in federal funds if President-elect Donald Trump is able to carry out one particular point in his pre-election plan for immigration reform.

“Donald Trump’s Contract with the American Voter,” released by his campaign staff in late October, listed actions he would take in his first 100 days in office.

Listed as one of five actions Trump would take on his first day in office “to restore security and the constitutional rule of law” is cancelling all federal funding to sanctuary cities. On the list, as reported Nov. 9 by National Public Radio, cancelling funding is named along with beginning the removal of more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country.

Greene County is a sanctuary city/county. Greene County sheriff’s deputies do not notify U.S. Immigration and Customs (ICE) officials when they locate undocumented (illegal) immigrants during traffic stops or other encounters, and sheriff Steve Haupert will not hold a suspected undocumented immigrant arrested on a minor charge while/until federal agents determine their immigration status.

At stake is about $420,000 in federal funds the county secondary roads department receives, including about $200,000 in bridge funds, and another $20,000 or so in grants to the Department of Human Services and law enforcement for participating in special Traffic Enforcement Projects.

Requests to hold an individual, or “detainers”, are “not a front burner thing” in Greene County, according to Haupert, and the sanctuary policy is informal. It is a matter of practice, not formal policy.

Overcrowding at the county jail and staff time are his primary reasons for sanctuary. “We don’t have the person-power or the jail resources to detain anyone without a court order or a probable cause warrant,” Haupert said.

He explained that it is unlikely ICE would send an agent to pick up just one detainee in a timely manner. The county jail can hold only eight inmates and it is often full, and he is reluctant to use jail space for persons unless there is probable cause for a warrant on a criminal matter. If an undocumented person with a criminal history or for whom there were an outstanding warrant were picked up, “we’d handle it and find room,” he said.

Haupert is not alone. Of the approximately 300 sanctuary cities/counties in the country, 23 are Iowa counties. A list compiled by the Center for Immigration Studies includes Johnson County, Linn County, Polk County, Pottawattamie County, Sioux County and Story County, along with 17 other counties. Dallas County and Buena Vista County are not on the list.

He said he does not have a sense that criminals in Iowa illegally are taking advantage of Greene County’s sanctuary. He hasn’t had much conversation with other sheriffs about their experiences with ICE detainees.

If Trump does cut federal funding and it becomes problematic, Haupert will change procedures. “Unfortunately, if money drives it and somebody gives me a directive that we have to go the other way, I guess we would,” he said.

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