Attorney General Sessions Threatens to Punish 'Sanctuary Cities'

Bruno Cirelli
Agosto 4, 2017

Baltimore officials say police won't enforce immigration laws despite Attorney General Jeff Sessions' threat to withhold federal funding for crime fighting unless they agree to co-operate.

In a memo released online, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said municipalities that have refused to comply with federal agencies seeking to deport undocumented people are endangering the safety of officers and the public.

The Justice Department sent letters to cities struggling with gun violence, telling them they will be ineligible for a new program that aims to root out drug trafficking and gang crime unless they give federal immigration authorities access to jails and provide advance notice before releasing someone in custody who is wanted on immigration violations. The cities - which also include Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Stockton and San Bernardino in California - all expressed interest in the Justice Department's new Public Safety Partnership, which enlists federal agents, analysts and technology to help communities find solutions to crime.

The Republican mayor of Albuquerque previously declared that his city is not a sanctuary for immigrants without legal status.

"Turning back the recent troubling increase in violent crime in our country is a top priority of the Department of Justice and the Trump Administration, as we work to fulfill the President's promise to make America safe again", Sessions said in a statement announcing the program.

Berry says if Sessions had an issue with Bernalillo County jails, he needed to take those concerns to the county.

"Sanctuary city" is often used as shorthand for jurisdictions that limit cooperation with immigration enforcement in some way, but there is no set definition, and many reject the term.

"When an arrest is made, a notification is sent to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who alert the jail if they have a detainer on the person", a statement from Maryland corrections read. "Our policies have been very, very consistent over the years".

Representatives of the Baltimore and Albuquerque police departments noted that they do not control the jails - the state or county does.

Representatives from the other two police departments did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In the four letters, the Justice Department asked the prospective cities' police departments to show proof of their compliance by August 18.

The department issued this requirement because jurisdictions that do not fully cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement make it more hard to enforce immigration law, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in the statement.

"It is a vision of terror for families like mine", said Gabriela Hernandez, Southwest Organizer for United We Dream. It was supposed to provide selected cities with federal expertise - though not money - to help curb violence.

(2) Does your jurisdiction have a statute, rule, regulation, policy, or practice that is created to ensure that your correctional and detention facilities provide at least 48 hours advance notice, where possible, to DHS regarding the scheduled release date and time of an alien in the jurisdiction's custody when DHS requests such notice in order to take custody of the alien?

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