With the pending confirmation of Sen Jeff Sessions from Alabama as Attorney General, Trump is doubling down on his immigration enforcement stance, and is sending a clear message to sanctuary cities: comply or else. With Sessions, Trump has his attack dog, and sanctuary cities need to beware.
Sessions is so far to the right on immigration that fellow republicans often clash with him, such as when he vigorously opposed the ‘gang of eight’s immigration reforms in 2013. For the two decades he’s been in the Senate he has been a vocal leader of an aggressive anti-immigration crusade. One thing is certain, both Sessions and Trump have sanctuary cities in their crosshairs.
What exactly is a “Sanctuary City” and why are Trump and Sessions so opposed to them?
Although there is no official designation for a city to be known as sanctuary or not, it is more a policy the city adopts in how they handle illegal immigrants who run afoul of the law, rather than any cities boundary lines.
A city that follows sanctuary policy will not notify the federal government when they arrest an illegal, even if officially requested! For example, local law enforcement arrests an illegal for drugs, weapons, assault, etc., and decides they don’t have enough evidence to make an easy prosecution so they let the criminal go. Instead of informing ICE so ICE can deport the undesirable, he walks!
This irresponsible policy lead to the now infamous July 2015 shooting death of Kate Steinle by an undocumented immigrant and repeat felon whom San Francisco police let walk on an earlier drugs arrest! Amazingly the Department of Homeland Security requested he be deported, but local officials chose to ignore that request. Sanctuary policy not only effectively takes a very powerful tool away from law enforcement, but also cripples their efforts in crime prevention as well.
As the law reads now, immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility. State and local law enforcement officials can decide to what extent they want to cooperate with the federal government on immigration enforcement.
ICE has issued what is known as an ‘immigration detainer’, which is a formal request to be notified when a non-citizen is being released by a state or local law enforcement agency. This sensible request is so they can determine weather or not to deport that ‘criminal alien’. But since it is a voluntary request, some local or state law enforcement agencies decide not to tell the feds, hence the term, sanctuary city.
This optional compliance is the very heart of the sanctuary city failing. Between Jan 2014 and Sept 2015, state and local law enforcement agencies declined 18,646 ICE immigration detainers with California leading the way by far. These were criminals who were let free!
With Jeff Sessions at the helm of the Justice Department, he can do many things to change this policy from voluntary to mandatory.
First, as attorney general, he will have oversight of the immigration courts, formally known as Executive Office of Immigration Review. He can also appoint judges to the Board of Immigration Appeals who reflect his hardline stance. In doing this “he’ll have a lot of influence over what decisions are made,” said Jacinta MA, director of policy and advocacy for the National Immigration Forum, which has raised concerns about Sessions’ nomination. “He can literally write opinion that have the force of the law and interpret federal immigration law,” said Karen Tumlin, legal director at the National Immigration Law Center.
Second, he is in position to carry out a Trump campaign promise to punish “sanctuary cities”. He can do this by finding ways to limit, or stop altogether, federal funds going to cities that are in non-compliance with ICE’s immigration detainers. Or he could pursue lawsuits against sanctuary cities to force them to comply with the Trump administration.
Thirdly and most powerful of all, he can push to re-write the law itself, making it mandatory, not optional, to cooperate with the Federal Government and to honor the official requests from ICE.
Whichever way he does it, it looks like the beginning of the end for Sanctuary Cities.
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