On Thursday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio promised a city, still stunned in the wake of President-elect Donald Trump’s unexpected victory, that a database containing personal information from more than 850,000 New Yorkers would not be handed over to the White House without a fight, and that it might even be erased.
The database contains addresses and dates of birth of anyone who has registered for an IDNYC card, a free and official proof of identification that does not require the applicant to prove legal immigration status, and enables holders to access services and programs provided by the city. Mr. de Blasio's pushback also raises a broader question: Will state and local governments be able protect their residents from potential policy changes once President-elect Trump assumes office?
"[Trump] can change some federal laws but the Constitution protects a lot of the rights and powers of localities," de Blasio told CNN.
"As you know there's been an ongoing plan regardless of any electoral activity how long records are kept. Given this new reality we're certainly going to assess how we should handle it," he added.
De Blasio said that that the information could not be disclosed to federal law enforcement or immigration authorities before obtaining permission from the New York human resource administration. Additionally, de Blasio added, there is a provision in the law that may allow the database to be wiped at the end of the year, before Trump takes office on Jan. 20.
While the next few months will likely see many local and state governments using their constitutional powers to protect the rights of those who may feel threatened by a Trump presidency, New York City has to tread carefully.
Currently the city has "sanctuary status," meaning that the city may offer extra protection to some undocumented immigrants, even those who have broken the law, from deportation. However, Trump has mentioned blocking funding from cities that have enacted this policy.
During his campaign, Trump’s stance on immigration softened slightly, moving away from mass deportations to focusing on the quick removal of those immigrants who have committed crimes. However, his presidential transition website confirms continued commitment to a harsher immigration policy.
"We're looking very strongly at immigration," Trump told reporters, according to Bloomberg, listing immigration as one of his top three priorities for his first 100 days. "We're going to look at the borders, very importantly, we're looking very strongly at health care and we're looking at jobs – big league jobs."
Immediately upon entering office, Trump could, without approval from Congress, cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protected 750,000 young people who were brought into the country illegally as children from being deported, Bloomberg reports. With the same executive authority President Obama used to enact the DACA program, Trump could restrict the number of refugees admitted to the US each year.
Additionally there is talk that Trump’s aids have begin drafting new instructions for the 5,000 deportation officers to round up people for deportation, including raiding businesses, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"There is vast potential to increase the level of deportations without adding personnel," Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and a member of Trump’s immigration policy transition team, told the Los Angeles Times. He added that with more authority the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents could deport 75 percent more people during the first year in office.
However, other measures will need to go through a Republican-controlled Congress, and while they may want to restrict immigration, they also want to cut spending. Trump's own cost estimate of the proposed wall along the Mexican border is $12 billion, although other estimates have put it far higher.
Trump must also go through Congress to end funding to sanctuary cities such as New York, change legal immigration policies to better serve US-born workers, or suspend visa applications from countries with high Muslim populations.
"It's a big bureaucracy, and particularly when it comes to agency regulations, the process of getting new regulations through is extremely long and complex," Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School, told the Los Angeles Times.