Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday local jurisdictions seeking U.S. Department of Justice grants must first demonstrate they are not sanctuary cities — a threat that could potentially apply to Los Angeles and other local municipalities.
Sessions said jurisdictions must prove they are in compliance with Section 1373 of U.S. Code Title 8, which requires notification of federal officials about the immigration status of people in local custody. The policy was issued under the Barack Obama administration in 2016, but was not enforced.
“The American people know that when cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe,” Sessions said.
Sessions noted that the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs and Community Oriented Policing Services expect to issue about $4.1 billion in grants during the current fiscal year. Sessions’ comments were in line with an executive order issued by President Donald Trump in January that threatened to cut off federal funding to sanctuary cities.
The potential financial impact to local jurisdictions deemed to be uncooperative with federal immigration authorities was not immediately clear. The city of Los Angeles received $1.4 million from the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program this fiscal year, according to the Justice Department’s website.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Los Angeles County received $3.4 million in 2015 from the DOJ’s State Criminal Alien Assistance Program — an amount that represents about one-tenth of 1 percent of the sheriff’s department’s budget.
While there is no specific definition of a sanctuary city or jurisdiction, it often refers to a city or county that refuses to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that is has an immigrant in the country illegally in its custody. Federal law requires the notification, even if the person has not been convicted of a crime, but many jurisdictions ignore the law.
Los Angeles’ leaders have resisted officially labeling the city as a sanctuary city, although many others cities, including San Francisco and Portland, have taken on the label. The policy of the Los Angeles Police Department is to only hold a person for ICE if there is a federal criminal warrant out for their arrest.
Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an executive order March 21 directing the city’s harbor and airport police to follow Los Angeles Police Department Special Order 40, which has been in place since 1979. It prohibits officers from initiating any police activity for the sole purpose of identifying someone’s immigration status.
The executive order also bars any city employee from assisting any federal agency when the primary purpose is federal civil immigration enforcement.
“All residents must feel safe and supported when accessing the vast array of city facilities, programs, and services available to them,” the order states.
Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Panorama City, called Sessions’ remarks “unwarranted and misguided.”
“As the facts have shown time and time again, sanctuary cities are both safer and better off economically,” Cardenas said. “This administration’s backwards policies will make life worse for the millions of Americans that live in these cities.”
Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles, echoed those remarks, saying cooperation between police and residents in “immigrant-welcoming” cities leads to safer communities.
“The A.G. is needlessly threatening to cut funding to cities for doing what every jurisdiction across the country should do — welcome diversity and ensure their local law enforcement builds strong bonds of trust and communication with all communities,” she said.
— City News Service
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