Trump threatened to withhold coronavirus aid from states unless they change their sanctuary city policies

  • President Donald Trump suggested that federal aid could be withheld from states that don't align with his administration's immigration policies.

  • "If it's COVID-related, I guess we can talk about [aid], but we'd want certain things also, including sanctuary city adjustments," he said.

  • Sanctuary cities and states are localities that have policies to refuse cooperation with the federal government's immigration enforcement laws.

  • Trump has long sought to punish places that defy his hardline immigration policies, and had said in March that he would withhold federal funds to them.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that he could withhold federal coronavirus aid from states if they refuse to comply with his administration's immigration policies.

"If it's COVID-related, I guess we can talk about [aid], but we'd want certain things also, including sanctuary city adjustments," he told a White House event to promote measures to help businesses during the pandemic.

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"It is one of the things we think about. If we are going to do something for states, they will want something having to do with sanctuary cities and other different points that we can discuss a little later on."

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Sanctuary cities and states are places that have policies to refuse cooperation with the federal government's immigration enforcement laws. Trump has long criticized them for not complying with his administration's hardline measures.

There are 11 sanctuary states in the US: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. There are also other sanctuary cities and counties in other states that don't have this policy.

Both Democratic and Republican governors have called for federal aid to help states cover massive budget shortfalls caused by the coronavirus crisis.

But the issue has become the focus of partisan controversy, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week said that states with shortfalls should declare bankruptcy, in what critics say is a move designed to hand greater control over state budgets to the federal government.

Trump has long railed against cities which have resisted complying with his hardline anti-migrant policies — the so-called "sanctuary cities" — claiming that they shield migrant criminals from prosecution and deportation.

Studies have not found any correlation crime rates in cities and sanctuary policies.

In March, as the coronavirus crisis began to worsen, Trump said he would withhold federal money from states that defy his administration's immigration policies after a federal court ruled that the move would be lawful.