The Homeland Security Department recently authorized $1.7 billion in grants to states, some of which went to “sanctuary” cities that do not enforce federal immigration laws, despite President Trump’s vows to cut off the funding.
According to a report in McClatchy, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen signed off on the grants despite objections from senior staffers.
A spokesman for the department said Nielsen had little choice but to approve the grants given a court order that prevents the federal government from withholding funding.
“We cannot implement or enforce the portion of the Executive Order that instructs us to withhold funding from sanctuary cities,” the DHS spokesman said.
The official also pushed back on the McClatchy report, saying agency officials would not press her to withhold the grants since they would then be “asking her to not comply with a court order.”
“That simply would not happen,” the spokesman said.
McClatchy reported that the decision to award the money angered Trump supporters.
It quoted Ralph King, the co-founder of Main Street Politics. “If you want to cut off sanctuary cities, then cut them off,” King told McClatchy. “If you don’t want to enforce the federal laws of this country … you don’t get the federal funding.”
McClatchy cited three anonymous sources, two of whom it said used to work at the Department of Homeland Security and remain in close contact with people there, in reporting that aides urged her not to award any of the grant money to sanctuary cities.
“This is typical of Nielsen,” one person told McClatchy. “She is known for deliberately ignoring warnings that her decisions are not in keeping with the president’s agenda, but that she proceeds forcefully and simply misrepresents what she is doing.”
Nielsen has been under scrutiny since President Trump reportedly lambasted her at a Cabinet meeting over his frustrations on border security.
The Trump administration is also notorious for leaks in which Cabinet secretaries and other officials come under attack from anonymous sources for a lack of loyalty to Trump. Nielsen, who worked for the administration of former President George W. Bush, has previously been subject to such attacks.
Trump signed an executive order last year to restrict some funds for sanctuary cities, but a federal judge blocked the order, calling it “unconstitutional on its face.”
The grants authorized by Nielsen were preparedness grants announced last week that are intended to help localities prepare for “terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies.”
The agency did not release a list of grant recipients, but a New York lawmaker said that New York City, a sanctuary city, will receive money from the agency.
The Justice Department has also brought a lawsuit against California challenging its sanctuary practices.