For anyone who is acting shocked over this announcement I really only have one question: Did you think Trump was kidding?
The Attorney General put out a brief announcement yesterday fulfilling another promise that the President made on the campaign trail and during his first days in office. Jeff Sessions released the basic guidelines which define so-called “sanctuary cities” and how their actions may impact their federal funding. (Washington Examiner)
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday released final guidance that calls on the Justice Department to withhold grants from certain “sanctuary” city jurisdictions, in a bid to crack down on cities and jurisdictions that refuse to follow federal requests to detain illegal immigrants.
In a memo released Monday afternoon, Sessions said he and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly have decided that a sanctuary jurisdiction will refer “only to jurisdictions that ‘willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373.'”
Section 1373 requires state and local jurisdictions not to limit communications with DHS about people’s citizenship or immigration status. Hundreds of cities and counties nationwide have policies that prohibit local officials from cooperating with requests for illegal immigrants to be held until they are picked up by federal officials.
From the initial roll out, this looks like a sensible way to approach the issue while causing the least amount of disruption. Rather than turning it into some fiery, politically charged event, Sessions is simply defining the federal laws which are to be enforced and specifying penalties for those who choose to willfully defy them.
Some of the liberal activists in municipal governments have already been readying a response to the charges, but it seems fairly weak. The code in question deals with “limiting communications” between state or local law enforcement and DHS, so some cities are attempting to claim that DHS is still free to send requests to them so they’re in the clear. But here’s what 8 U.S.C. 1373 actually says.
Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal, State, or local law, a Federal, State, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.
Granted, that doesn’t speak to the specific issue of refusing to honor a detainer, but many of these cities have gone much further. Places such as Los Angeles and Seattle (among others) have been ordering the police not to even respond to requests for information about the immigration status of suspects who have been arrested. Simply saying that ICE is welcome to “send” the request obviously doesn’t meet the criteria specified.
Since there was already one court ruling which reinforced the idea that Washington can’t cut all federal funding for non-compliant jurisdictions, this initial guidance adopts another smart strategy. They’re limiting the penalties to funding which directly relates to law enforcement. That should eliminate any potential liberal court challenges, at least once they get past the level of the 9th circuit.
One gets the sense that this is only the beginning. Sessions himself described this step as “narrowly defined” and it was clearly designed to eliminate excuses offered by the sanctuary cities. But there’s more that could still be done to expand this. Stay tuned. This sounds like it’s only the first step of many to come.