President Donald Trump won't rule out the possibility of defunding the entire state of California if it declares statewide sanctuary status for illegal immigrants.
A small group of lawmakers in California, the largest state by population, voted last week in favor of making the entire state a safe haven for illegal immigrants. The state's Senate Public Safety Committee voted 5-2 along party lines to approve the measure, the Associated Press reported. Democrats on the committee supported the bill while Republicans opposed it.
The California bill in question, known as SB 54, was referred Tuesday to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento have all declared themselves to be sanctuary cities, meaning that local law enforcement won't arrest or detain individuals solely for being in the country illegally, KQED-TV reported. The new effort originating in the California State Senate would extend sanctuary status to every city in the state, meaning that the estimated 2.3 million illegal immigrants currently living in California would be shielded from deportation.
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly asked Trump for his thoughts about the proposed law during an exclusive pre-Super Bowl interview Sunday.
"I think it's ridiculous — sanctuary cities. As you know I'm very much opposed to sanctuary cities. They breed crime. There's a lot of problems," Trump said.
"If we have to we'll defund. We give tremendous amounts of money to California. California in many ways is out of control. Obviously the voters agree. Otherwise they wouldn't have voted for me," the president added.
California voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over Trump by more than 4.2 million votes in last year's presidential election, the New York Times reported.
"So defunding is your weapon of choice —" O'Reilly followed up.
"Well, it's a weapon. I don't want to defund a state or a city," Trump replied.
"But you're willing to do it?" O'Reilly asked again.
"I don't want to defund anybody. I want to give them the money they need to properly operate as a city or state. If they're going to have sanctuary cities, we may have to do that. Certainly, that would be a weapon," Trump said.
Trump's comment came just days after he issued an executive order saying that he would "employ all lawful means" to enforce existing immigration laws in sanctuary cities, even if that meant withdrawing federal funds.
California receives about $1.2 billion per year from the federal government. The state applies the money toward services such as housing, health and social services and homeless aid, the AP reported.