De Blasio’s feud with the feds puts anti-terror funds at risk
Mayor de Blasio and Congress are putting the lives of New Yorkers at risk. De Blasio by his stubborn refusal to comply with federal law and cooperate with immigration authorities; Congress by its overreaction in attempting to cut homeland-security funds that the NYPD and FDNY need to protect New York from terrorist attacks.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives is scheduled to consider legislation to punish sanctuary cities by excluding them from any “grant administered by the . . . Department of Homeland Security that is substantially related to law enforcement [and] terrorism.” Some of these grant programs were developed specifically in response to terror attacks on New York City.
Eliminating homeland-security and anti-terror funding for New York is reckless, irresponsible and indefensible. Protecting Gotham’s 8.5 million people — including tens of thousands of cops, firefighters and first responders who risk their lives to keep us safe — has become a disturbing game of “chicken.”
Cities shouldn’t be able to pick and choose which laws to follow. New York City is shameless in its unwillingness to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, and it should be held accountable for its actions.
Some reasonable consequences might include withholding Department of Justice grants intended to help City Hall enforce immigration laws. After all, it doesn’t make much sense to give enforcement money to a city that doesn’t do much enforcing.
And the city hasn’t made many friends in Washington with its in-your-face response to the Trump administration’s (quite reasonable) demand that New York comply with the law of the land. Particularly galling is that city taxpayers might foot the legal bills for violent criminals trying to avoid deportation.
But the bill we’re voting on this week takes the consequences to a dangerous extreme. It would make New York City ineligible for hundreds of millions of dollars every year that go toward thwarting terror attacks. These dollars have no connection to immigration whatsoever, except for the fact that the NYPD hunts down terror threats and also sometimes arrests illegal aliens.
It’s a cruel irony that security concerns over criminal undocumented immigrants have been given as a rationale for a bill that disembowels the anti-terror apparatus in the world’s top terror target.
Take the Urban Areas Security Initiative, one of the many grant programs on the chopping block. It provided New York City with $180 million in anti-terror funding last year alone. The NYPD and FDNY used that money for groundbreaking initiatives like the Domain Awareness System, which analyzes troves of data, including cameras and license-plate readers, to track real-time threats and respond immediately to life-threatening situations. The initiative also pays for bomb-sniffing dogs and active shooter training.
Another initiative, the Transit Security Grant Program, protects critical transportation hubs from terror threats. This isn’t a hypothetical — last year, a would-be bomber got into a shootout with New Jersey police officers after planting explosives at train stations. We passed legislation to strengthen the program because it’s so important to our security. These measures protect our city every day.
Every week, there’s a new terror attack or threat against the West. The NYPD has its own intelligence-analysis division with assets deployed across the world, and much of this work is funded by federal anti-terror grants.
There have been 199 ISIS-linked plots to attack the West or Western targets since 2013, 21 of them in the first months of 2017 alone. In New York City, anti-terror officials have thwarted 25 attacks since 2001.
Most worryingly, there have been 39 homegrown-jihadist cases in 20 states in the past 12 months. Lone-attacker scenarios are notoriously difficult to predict; oftentimes, authorities have no hint of them until they’re in progress.
Such attacks require immediate, forceful, coordinated responses to minimize loss of life. These highly choreographed operations demand intensive training, which is also funded in part by federal anti-terror grants.
It’s unsettling to have to make the public case against eliminating federal anti-terror initiatives for New York City. When lives are at stake — and the events nearly 16 years ago in New York make it tragically clear that they indeed are — political calculations must take a back seat to common sense.
US authorities have to be hyper-vigilant now more than ever. De Blasio’s sanctuary-city policies are wrongheaded, but security for innocent New Yorkers, cops, firefighters and first responders shouldn’t be jeopardized because of it.
Republican Reps. Dan Donovan and Peter King represent New York’s 11th and 2nd Congressional Districts, respectively.