Monday, May 22, 2017

AG Sessions Issues Narrow Definition of Sanctuary City

President Trump's Administration issued a notice Monday making clear Officials will narrowly interpret a January Executive Order stemming the flow of Federal Funds to so-called Sanctuary Cities, after some Mayors feared the White House might apply it broadly to cut off Money from Local Governments with which it disagrees on Immigration Policy.

Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions issued a Memo saying that Trump's Order will only apply to Grants from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security "and not to other sources of federal funding."

In addition, Sessions said the only Localities whose current Funding will be in Jeopardy will be those that "willfully refuse to comply" with a Specific Provision in Federal Law. The Provision Prohibits Cities from Barring Local Employees such as Police Officers from Communicating with Federal Officials about Suspects who may be in Violation of Immigration Laws.

The Memo seems consistent with what Sessions and other officials told a Visiting Delegation of Mayors last month. They were concerned that the Administration might use a Broader Definition of "Sanctuary Jurisdiction" that could impact many Cities and Counties that do not routinely honor Federal Detainers, which are requests to hold Suspects believed to be in the Country Illegally but who are being released from Jail or Prison.

Some of the issues Sessions addressed in his Memo may be moot for now because a Federal Judge in San Francisco recently issued an Injunction Banning the Administration from using the Executive Order to impose any Restrictions that go beyond the Federal Law Section Sessions cited, 8 U.S.C. 1373. It is unclear under the U.S. Constitution whether Grants that are unrelated to Immigration can be withheld because Cities or Counties don't abide by Federal Immigration Policy.

Sessions did appear to leave open the possibility that Future Grants could be tied to Localities' willingness to Enforce Immigration Law in other ways, whether through Honoring Detainers or participating in Joint Local-Federal efforts to target Undocumented Immigrants.

"While the Executive Order's definition of 'sanctuary jurisdictions' is narrow, nothing in the Executive Order limits the Department's ability to point out ways that state and local jurisdictions are undermining our lawful system of immigration or to take enforcement action where state or local practices violated federal laws, regulations or grant conditions," Sessions wrote.

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