Professor Lasch writes:
“As JURIST previously reported, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has threatened to cut Department of Justice funding to so-called “sanctuary” cities. The Attorney General’s comments during the White House press briefing on March 27, 2017, and on other occasions, demonstrate that our nation’s top law enforcement official is concerned far less with enforcing the law than with pursuing the Trump administration’s political agenda.
Ignoring the Law
Anti-sanctuary politicians like to claim that sanctuary cities defy or flout federal law. President Trump, for example, in his January 25 executive order on interior immigration enforcement, claimed that “[s]anctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.” Echoing this, Attorney General Sessions on March 27 likewise tried to paint sanctuary policies as defying federal law. He said that the DOJ Inspector General previously “found that these policies … violate federal law.” PolitiFact rightly rated this claim “mostly false” after consulting with immigration law experts and reviewing the Inspector General’s report [PDF], which was fairly explicit in not reaching the conclusion that any particular policy violated the law.
Sessions’s inaccurate portrayal of the Inspector General’s report fits into a larger pattern of dishonesty about the law when it comes to sanctuary policies. His remarks on March 27 suggested that sanctuary policies might violate numerous federal laws. But only one specific statute has ever been cited by those (including President Trump, in his executive order, and Attorney General Sessions, in his March 27 remarks) who suggest sanctuary policies defy federal law: 8 U.S.C. § 1373.
8 U.S.C. § 1373 is a very narrow law, addressed only to prohibitions on local law enforcement sharing information with federal immigration officials concerning a person’s citizenship or immigration status. The overwhelming majority of “sanctuary” policies across the country have nothing to say about such information sharing. (San Francisco, for example, while perhaps the jurisdiction most often maligned by the anti-sanctuary campaign, takes the position that it complies with 8 U.S.C. § 1373). Instead, most policies address whether immigration “detainers” (requests by federal immigration officials for the continued detention of a state or local inmate who is otherwise entitled to release) will be accepted by local law enforcement.
Lack of compliance with detainers is what is really at stake in the current debate over sanctuary cities. We know this because while administration officials point to 8 U.S.C. § 1373 to support the claim that sanctuary policies violate federal law, they fail to discuss any claimed violations of 8 U.S.C. § 1373. Instead, they talk about jurisdictions failing to honor detainers—which is exactly where Attorney General Sessions took the conversation on March 27, trotting out the San Francisco case of Francisco Sanchez and the Denver case of Ever Valles as examples of prisoners released, despite ICE having lodged a detainer–only to be subsequently charged with murder.
We also know that detainers are what is really troubling the administration because the President’s executive order directed the Department of Homeland Security “on a weekly basis, [to] make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.” Attorney General Sessions cited this order on March 27 before turning to the Sanchez and Valles cases, claiming the DHS report showed “that in a single week, there were more than 200 instances of jurisdictions refusing to honor ICE detainer requests with respect to individuals charged or convicted of a serious crime.” The report, it turns out, was riddled with errors—”corrections” to the report issued by DHS included, for example, that Franklin County, Iowa; Franklin County, New York; and Franklin County, Pennsylvania were all erroneously listed as having declined detainers in the first report. Its issuance was discontinued after just three weeks.
Despite the obsession with declined detainers, Attorney General Sessions has in his remarks demonstrated utter obliviousness to the actual law governing detainers. On March 27, Sessions suggested honoring detainers was a “fundamental principle of law enforcement” and in February at a meeting of states’ attorneys general, Sessions called it a “shocking thing” that localities were not honoring detainers. These comments suggest unawareness of a steady stream of federal court decisions since 2014. The Third Circuit US Court of Appeals, in Galarza v. Szalczyk, established that localities cannot be compelled to honor detainers. A district court in Oregon held further that localities can be held liable for Fourth Amendment violations, given that the detention requested by federal officials amounts to a new warrantless arrest that must be justified under the Constitution. This line of precedent was sufficiently strong that the Obama administration put an end to the “Secure Communities” [PDF] program (which relied heavily on detainers) because of it.
If Sessions is aware of this body of law, he is not talking about it.
. . . .
These policy positions, however, are contradicted by all available data. Study [PDF] after study has shown that immigrants, regardless of status, commit crimes at lower rates than citizens. In the words of Michael Tonry [PDF[, “high levels of legal and illegal Hispanic immigration … [are] credited with contributing significantly to the decline in American crime rates since 1991.” And sanctuary policies have not made cities unsafe–the recent study by Tom K. Wong concludes that crime rates are lower and economic indicators are stronger in sanctuary jurisdictions.
JURIST guest columnist Ali Khan recently situated America’s current war on immigrants in global trends of nativism, racism and xenophobia. This, in my view, provides the answer to the question of what “countervailing principles” might cause Attorney General Sessions not only to ignore all available data on immigration, sanctuary, and crime, but to upend traditional Republican views on federal-versus-local control of policing. Trump’s anti-sanctuary rhetoric, I have argued [PDF], is racial rhetoric. It is part of an illogical, counterfactual, counter-legal, and highly successful political formula: Demonizing immigrants wins votes; deporting immigrants wins votes.
Sanctuary cities stand in the way of this political agenda. The Attorney General’s words and actions reveal that, when it comes to sanctuary cities, Jeff Sessions is not serving the role of chief law enforcement lawyer. He is just another politician chasing down votes for the President.”
Sessions’s latest threats directed against so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions have drawn some “robust pushback:”
As Jay Croft reports in CNN:
Out of touch.
Mayors of some of the so-called sanctuary cities were not impressed Friday with the Trump administration’s latest volley in the dispute over immigration policy. The Justice Department told the local government officials
to share immigration information by June 30 on people who have been arrested — or lose federal money.
‘Civil deportation force’
“If anybody in the Trump administration would actually do some research before firing off letters, they would see that the city of New Orleans has already provided the Department of Justice documentation that shows we are in compliance with federal immigration laws,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement.
“This is another example of the Trump administration acting before doing their homework. The New Orleans Police Department will not be a part of President Trump’s civil deportation force no matter how many times they ask.”
He reiterated a point made by sanctuary mayors — that individuals are more likely to report crime and testify if they are not afraid of being questioned about their immigration status.
Values ‘not for sale’
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel didn’t pull any punches, either.
“We’ve seen the letter from DOJ. Neither the facts nor the law are on their side,” Emanuel said.
“Regardless, let me be clear: Chicago’s values and Chicago’s future are not for sale.”
Emanuel’s office said Chicago wants to be seen as a “welcoming” city for immigrants.
In Chicago, $3.6 billion in federal funds are at stake, possibly jeopardizing money to pay for everything from feeding low-income pregnant women to repairing roads and bridges, according an analysis by the Better Government Association, a nonpartisan state watchdog group.
NY mayor: Not ‘soft on crime’
The Justice Department claimed illegal immigration into the country has increased crime in these cities. It called New York City “soft on crime.”
That didn’t play in New York.
“I have never met a member of the New York Police Department that is soft on crime,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
In a statement and on Twitter, de Blasio challenged President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to come to the city “and look our officers in the eye and tell them they are soft on crime.”
Spokesman Seth Stein went a step farther.
“This grand-standing shows how out of touch the Trump administration is with reality,” Stein said.
“Contrary to their alternative facts, New York is the safest big city in the country, with crime at record lows in large part because we have policies in place to encourage cooperation between NYPD and immigrant communities.”
Session’s tone deaf, xenophobic approach shows little interest in effective law enforcement. Unlike Sessions, over my time at the U.S. Immigration Court in Arlington, I actually had to deal on a face to face basis with both gang members and their victims. Unlike Sessions, I have actually denied bond to and entered orders of removal against established gang members. I’ve also granted relief to victims of gang violence and watched the U.S. legal system intentionally “turn its back” on other victims in dire need of protection.
I have a daughter who as a teacher has had to deal on a day to day basis with some gang issues in the schools and the community in a constructive manner, rather than the harsh platitudes coming out of Sessions’s mouth.
From my perspective, a credible effort to reduce gang violence in the U.S. would require:
1) confidence and close cooperation with the migrant communities across the U.S. (for example, the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force, established with the help of Congress and the efforts of former Rep Frank Wolf has a much more nuanced and potentially effective “multi-faceted” approach to gang violence than the “talk tough, threaten, blame immigrants” approach Sessions is purveying; many of the gang-related cases I got at the Arlington Immigration Court stemmed from the efforts of the Task Force working positively in immigrant communities);
2) a sound voluntary working relationship with local police, community activists, and school officials that concentrates on reducing violent crime and making young people feel included and valued, not focused on “busting” undocumented migrants,
3) recognition that while deportations of gang leaders and members who are not U.S. citizens might be necessary, it will not solve the problem (indeed, since gangs control many of the prisons in Central America and have also have compromised the police and the some government officials, removal to, or even imprisonment in, the Northern Triangle is akin to a “corporate reassignment” for gang members);
4) an acknowledgement that U.S. deportations are what basically started, and then fueled, the “gang crisis” in Central America — MS-13 was actually “Born in the U.S.A.” (with apologies to Bruce — L.A. to be exact) and “exported” (or perhaps more properly “deported”) to El Salvador after the end of the civil war; and
5) a program of at least temporary refuge for those fleeing gang violence in the Northern Triangle, many of whom now are effectively being told by the U.S. that joining gangs or giving in to their demands for extortion or assistance represents their only realistic chance of survival.
A long-term program to address the problems of gangs, drugs, violence against women, endemic public corruption, poor education, substandard health care, and gross economic inequality at the “point of origin” in the Northern Triangle is also needed, along with cooperative programs to encourage other stable countries in the Americas, such as Canada, Mexico, and Costa Rica to share the responsibility of providing at least “safe haven” to those fleeing the Northern Triangle.
Our current national policies, and particularly the ones advocated by Sessions and parroted by Secretary Kelly, actually appear likely to further the power and influence of gangs rather than curbing it. Indeed, as fear and distrust of our Government and the police spreads in migrant communities throughout the U.S., the power, protection, and authority of criminal gangs in the community is almost certainly going to be enhanced.
I think it’s also useful to “keep it in perspective.”Although the power of individual gangs has ebbed and flowed with time, gangs are a well-established historical phenomenon. Indeed, at least one historian has pointed to continuous battles between warring barons and their respective knights as the antecedents of today’s criminal gangs: ruthless, violent, structured on loyalty and fear, greedy, and insatiable. The United States probably does as good a job as any country of dealing with and controlling gang violence. But, it’s unlikely that even we are going to be able to completely eliminate it, any more than we will be able to completely eradicate crime.