On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trump Administration threatened to withhold federal funding from so-called “sanctuary cities” and states that do not cooperate with the federal government on immigration law enforcement.
“I strongly urge our nation’s states and cities and counties to consider carefully the harm they are doing to our citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws, and to rethink these policies,” Attorney General Sessions said.
The U.S. has more than 140 sanctuary cities, counties, or jurisdictions. That figure encompasses 37 cities, including some of the most populated in the nation – New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as San Francisco and Seattle.
“When cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe,” Mr. Sessions said. “Failure to deport aliens who are convicted of criminal offenses puts whole communities at risk, especially immigrant communities in the very sanctuary jurisdictions that seek to protect the perpetrators.”
Mr. Sessions said the Justice Department plans to award $4.1 billion in grant money this year – but that sanctuary cities will no longer be eligible to receive them.
“The Department of Justice will require that jurisdictions seeking or applying for DOJ grants to certify compliance with [U.S. Code 1373] as a condition of receiving those awards,” he said. US Code 1373 is the law which says cities cannot prevent federal authorities from enforcing immigration laws.
“The president has rightly said disregard for law must end,” Mr. Sessions said. “…Today, I am urging states and local jurisdictions to comply with these laws.”
Congressman John Garamendi, who represents much of Yolo County in the House of Representatives, told the Vanguard on Tuesday, “Threatening to take away public safety grants in the name of public safety is an absurd notion. The Department of Justice announcement that it is withholding grants from cities that engage in inclusive community policing is counterproductive and wrong. We want local law enforcement to build trust within the communities they protect and serve.”
Attorney General Xavier Becerra, in response to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ statements about requiring jurisdictions seeking federal grants to comply with federal immigration laws, said, “In California, we respect the Constitution and abide by federal law; we expect the federal government to do the same. The Trump Administration should rethink its plan to force state and local governments to do the federal government’s bidding on immigration.”
He added, “I will continue to work with our federal law enforcement partners for the good and safety of all our people. But it’s a low blow to our brave men and women in uniform to threaten to withhold public safety funding that they have earned unless Donald Trump gets his way on immigration. We will fight to protect those policing resources, just as we will protect all the residents of our state against unconstitutional overreach by our federal government.”
Senate President Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) added that the announcement from “Attorney General Jeff Sessions is nothing short of blackmail. When it comes to immigrants and sanctuary counties and cities, the Attorney General and the President are stuck on alternative facts.
“They are wrong about immigrants and wrong about what makes our communities safer. Data shows that sanctuary counties are not only safer than comparable non-sanctuary jurisdictions but are also better off economically,” he said.
Senator de León added, “Instead of making us safer, the Trump administration is spreading fear and promoting race-based scapegoating. Their gun-to-the-head method to force resistant cities and counties to participate in Trump’s inhumane and counterproductive mass-deportation is unconstitutional and will fail.”
Back in January, many police chiefs across the nation worried that tying federal law enforcement grants to immigration cooperation would undermine community policing efforts.
LA Police Chief Charlie Beck said in January that he planned to maintain the long-standing separation.
“I don’t intend on doing anything different,” he said. “We are not going to engage in law enforcement activities solely based on somebody’s immigration status. We are not going to work in conjunction with Homeland Security on deportation efforts. That is not our job, nor will I make it our job.”
“Our law enforcement officers and LAPD don’t go around asking people for their papers, nor should they,” LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “That’s not the role of local law enforcement.”
The code, however, does not apply to all forms of sanctuary policies. Local authorities are required to send information about who they arrest to federal authorities.
However, many of the sanctuary policies that DOJ and the Department of Homeland Security officials find most objectionable are not honoring “detainers” – requests to hold individuals eligible for deportation for up to 48 hours beyond what is required by criminal courts – so that immigration officials can come pick them up.
Organizations like the ACLU have long opposed the use of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detainers or “immigration holds” without an order from a judge.
ACLU also opposes “efforts to punish cities that have tried to improve public safety by taking commonsense measures to build community trust and ensure that crime victims cooperate with the police.”
Domenic Powell, Policy Strategist for the ACLU, writes, “Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials often ask local law enforcement agencies to keep people in jail for them so they can initiate deportation proceedings. Because ICE does not seek a judicial determination of probable cause, these requests put local police in the position of holding people in jail without the legal authority to do so, which violates their constitutional rights.”
On Friday, ICE announced changes to how it asks local police to hold people in their custody.
Mr. Powell stated, “While this change was undertaken to try to address court decisions making clear that ICE has been in violation of federal law on a massive scale, the introduction of these ‘warrants’ does nothing to address the constitutional flaws. ICE warrants are little more than a second piece of paper signed by an ICE agent — not, like familiar criminal warrants, signed by a judge. ICE is sending them to local police to give them a false sense of security and paper over the flaws in the detainer system, but they don’t offer local police any legal authority to hold someone.”
But the administration has a different view.
“The American people are justifiably angry. They know that when cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe,” Mr. Sessions said. He argued that the Trump administration will use “all lawful steps to claw back” all funds that have already gone to states or cities that “willfully violate” the law.
Meanwhile, he urged “our nation’s states and cities to consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens” by opting to be sanctuary cities.
It remains unclear how this action would affect cities like Davis – if at all.
—David M. Greenwald reporting