Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz made public Thursday a previously undisclosed memorandum that explains DOJ’s surprise decision earlier this month to cut Office of Justice Programs (OJP) law enforcement grants to sanctuary cities.
Local officials in sanctuary cities protect individuals who are in this country illegal by refusing to cooperate with federal officials seeking to enforce the nation’s immigration laws. The programs that were cut provide funding for police supplies, training and equipment, and reimburse states and cities for the cost of jailing illegal immigrants.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents told Horowitz’ investigators that officials in Cook County, Illinois, “won’t even talk to us.”
Other jurisdictions analyzed don’t allow their employees to talk to federal immigration officials even if the person in question is a convicted felon or on the terrorist watch list.
The May 31, 2016, memo laid bare the increasing opposition among officials in 10 major local and state jurisdictions. The IG analyzed Connecticut, California, Chicago, Clark County in Nevada, Cook County in Illinois, Miami-Dade County in Florida, Milwaukee county in Wisconsin, Orleans Parish in Louisiana, New York City and Philadelphia.
Together, those jurisdictions received nearly two-thirds of all OJP grant funding. Each of those cities obstruct requests that illegal aliens be held until federal officials can detain them, which is a key ICE tool to apprehend immigrants who run into law enforcement.
“We found that, while some honor a civil immigration detainer request when the subject meets certain conditions, such as prior felony convictions, gang membership, or presence on a terrorist watch list, others will not honor a civil immigration detainer request, standing alone, under any circumstances,” the IG said.
Cook County, Orleans Parish, Philadelphia and New York City municipal laws went a step further, prohibiting city officials from disclosing anything about a person’s immigration status.
A November 2014, New York City law prohibits corrections officers from communicating with ICE about an inmate without a warrant.
A January 4, 2016, Philadelphia executive order says the city will deny detainer requests “unless such person is being released after conviction for a first or second degree felony involving violence and the detainer is supported by a judicial warrant.”
“According to news reports, the purpose of the order was to bar almost all cooperation between city law enforcement and ICE,” the IG said.
ICE agents told the IG cooperation with immigration officials in analyzed cities has deteriorated since 2007, the last time the IG reviewed local officials’ cooperation with federal immigration officials.
Since then, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decided that complying with civil immigration detainer requests is only optional.
“ICE officials told us that because the requests are voluntary, local officials may also consider budgetary and other considerations that would otherwise be moot if cooperation was required under federal law,” the report said.
“Specifically, during the 2007 audit, ICE officials commented favorably to the OIG with respect to cooperation and information flow they received from the seven selected jurisdictions, except for the city and county of San Francisco,” the IG said. “As noted in this memorandum, we heard a very different report from ICE officials about the cooperation it is currently receiving.”
Title 8, Section 1373 of U.S. Code says 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 (INS) information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.”
Texas Republican Rep. John Culberson, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, prompted the DOJ to reconsider grant funding for sanctuary cities in a February letter. The DOJ’s announcement earlier this month was a big win for Republicans in Congress.
Public outcry over sanctuary cities erupted last year after an illegal alien killed 32-year-old Kate Steinle in San Francisco. San Francisco’s sheriff’s department previously released the illegal alien and refused to honor an ICE detainer request because of its policies opposing cooperation with federal immigration officials.
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