Round 2: Jeff Sessions Demands Compliance from 29 More Sanctuary Jurisdictions

Sanctuary State Protest
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Department of Justice sent out letters Wednesday demanding that 29 more suspected “sanctuary” jurisdictions demonstrate their policies do not prohibit cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.

According to DOJ documents obtained by Breitbart News, the jurisdictions – 26 cities and the “sanctuary states” of Illinois, Vermont, and Oregon – are all being told DOJ is “concerned” that one or more of their laws or policies violate 8 U.S.C. § 1373, a federal law stating jurisdictions “may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, [federal immigration officers] information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.” The cities and states are also told they stand liable to lose certain DOJ funding grants for 2017 if they do not demonstrate they are, in fact, in compliance with § 1373.

“Jurisdictions that adopt so-called ‘sanctuary policies’ also adopt the view that the protection of criminal aliens is more important than the protection of law-abiding citizens and of the rule of law,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement accompanying the letters, continuing:

I urge all jurisdictions found to be potentially out of compliance in this preliminary review to reconsider their policies that undermine the safety of their residents. We urge jurisdictions to not only comply with Section 1373, but also to establish sensible and effective partnerships to properly process criminal aliens.

Among the targets of this second round of demands for compliance are Oregon and Illinois, states that have chosen to implement policies prohibiting cooperation with federal law enforcement on immigration since President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The documents pertaining to Illinois, for example, specifically reference Illinois Senate Bill 31, signed into law by Republican Governor Bruce Rauner this August.

SB 31, like similar legislation already in place in California and now Oregon, prohibits all Illinois state and local law enforcement from complying with federal agents’ “immigration detainer” orders. It is illegal for police in Illinois to keep someone who federal agents tell them is an illegal alien in custody when they have no non-immigration-related reason to keep them locked up. They must release them back onto the streets despite federal agents asking for them to be held for up to 48 hours while they come to take them into their own custody.

Rauner, the Illinois Republican who swept into the governor’s mansion in Springfield promising to clean up years of Democratic corruption, claimed SB 31 “seems very reasonable” and is supported by “the immigration community” as he was deciding on whether to veto the bill. Some Illinois conservatives were appalled Rauner was even considering doing so. Former Republican candidate for the U.S. Congress and Illinois Minutemen-founder Rosanna Pulido told Breitbart News, “By signing this Bill, SB 31, Rauner will create an even stronger magnet for illegal aliens who are looking not to be apprehended by the law … Personally I am already checking out a different state I can move to. It is a truly sad day in Illinois.”

Six Illinois Republican legislators quickly moved, to no avail, to stop the law from taking effect.

Illinois will now face the scrutiny of the Department of Justice for Rauner’s decision, just like its largest city, Chicago, did in the first round of Attorney General Sessions’s effort to rein in jurisdictions harboring illegal alien criminals. The push has involved stern warnings from the beginning of the Trump administration that such jurisdictions were liable to lose Bryne Grants and other federal funding. In April, a first round of letters, similar to those disclosed Wednesday, was sent to places like Chicago and California.

So far, DOJ has seen mixed results from its efforts. Miami-Dade County, for example, chose to affirmatively end its sanctuary policies in light of federal pressure. Chicago, meanwhile, chose to sue, hiring a massive – and ruinously expensive – team of lawyers from white shoe firm WilmerHale to claim DOJ is “coercing” Chicago’s government by refusing to fund jurisdictions that flout immigration law. That litigation continues.

Ending sanctuary cities, a key element of the left’s strategy to create de facto amnesty for millions of illegal aliens through non-enforcement without passing a federal law, remains a central policy goal for Attorney General Sessions’ Department of Justice. “[R]ather than reconsider their policies, these sanctuary jurisdictions feign outrage when they lose federal funds as a direct result of actions designed to nullify plain federal law,” Sessions said in a September address on the topic.

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