New York Attorney General Condemns Trump's Threat to Withhold Coronavirus Aid From Sanctuary States

New York Attorney General Letitia James has condemned President Donald Trump for suggesting that federal assistance to states hard-hit by the coronavirus outbreak could be tied to whether or not they are willing to adjust their sanctuary policies.

Trump made the suggestion on Tuesday, expressing concerns over providing financial support to governments that he feels have managed their states poorly.

"We're not looking to recover 25 years of bad management and give them the money that they lost," Trump said at a White House news conference. "That's unfair to other states."

While the president said he was open to discussing the possibility with states, he said: "We'd want certain things also, including sanctuary-city adjustments."

Criticizing sanctuary policies, which allow protections for undocumented immigrants, often including rules barring law enforcement from working with federal immigration enforcement, Trump said: "People are being protected that shouldn't be protected. And a lot of bad things are happening with sanctuary cities."

"If we're going to do something for the states, I think we probably want something having to do with sanctuary cities," Trump said.

With New York having some of the most prominent sanctuary policies, Attorney General Letitia James struck out at Trump for threatening to hold coronavirus aid "hostage."

"President Trump's threat to hold coronavirus funding hostage to cities and states across the country are the latest in his efforts to push a sinister political agenda that only aims to punish us all—citizens and non-citizens alike," James said in a statement shared with Newsweek.

"This is just another attempt to again feed to his base and push the same partisan ideology we've seen for the last three years," James said, noting Trump's longstanding opposition to sanctuary policies.

"New York is proud of its status as a sanctuary state that welcomes and will fight to protect its immigrant residents—many of whom are fighting on the frontlines to battle the coronavirus," James asserted.

"It is my sincerest hope that one day the president will wake up and realize the power of his words," she said, adding: "Until that day comes we will be ready to take legal action."

It is unclear what form of legal action New York would take if the White House were to try to negotiate changes to the state's sanctuary policies in order for New York to receive aid from the federal government.

Newsweek has contacted James' office, as well as the White House, for further comment.

We cannot allow the Trump administration to exploit a public health crisis to further their anti-immigrant agenda.

— ACLU (@ACLU) April 28, 2020

The New York attorney general was not alone in admonishing the president's threat, with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also condemning his statements.

"We cannot allow the Trump administration to exploit a public health crisis to further their anti-immigrant agenda," the ACLU said in a tweet following the president's comments.

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 28, 2020. The president has suggested that coronavirus aid for states could be tied to whether governments are willing to change sanctuary policies. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty