In a shocking interview, Austin, Texas, Mayor Steve Alder told a public radio interviewer that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a group of mayors it is okay for them to refuse to honor immigration detainers.
The Austin mayor made the claim during an interview with KUT reporter Gabriel Cristóver Pérez following a meeting between Sessions and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Pérez said to the mayor if “in the eyes of the federal government, and the U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, we are not sanctionable, we are not (a) sanctuary city or county.” Mayor Alder replied, “That is my understanding because we don’t violate 8 USC 1373.”
“Specifically asked the question,” the mayor continued referencing the Attorney General, “Would a city that was not honoring voluntary detainers be a city that was sanctionable under the President’s executive order directed at sanctuary cities?”
“I was told no,” Mayor Alder claimed as Sessions’ response.
— Nathan Bernier (@KUTnathan) April 25, 2017
Breitbart Texas reached out to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for verification of the mayor’s claim. DOJ Principal Deputy Director of Public Affairs did not categorically deny the mayor’s allegation but stated, “The Attorney General did not comment or provide a legal opinion as to whether Austin or any other jurisdiction is or is not in compliance with 8 U.S.C. Section 1373.”
He also provided a with a written statement from the department. The statement from AG Sessions reads as follows:
DOJ Principal Deputy Director of Public Affairs quickly responded with a written statement from the department. The statement from AG Sessions reads as follows:
The Department of Justice will fulfill our responsibility to uphold and enforce our nation’s immigration laws, including 8 U.S.C. 1373. Under the Obama administration, the Department of Justice required certain grantees to certify compliance with federal law, including 8 U.S.C. 1373, as a condition for receiving grant funding. Last year, the Department of Justice’s Inspector General reported that 10 jurisdictions were potentially in violation of 8 U.S.C. 1373, including because they had policies that restricted local law enforcement from sharing information about criminal aliens in their custody.
My letter has required those jurisdictions to submit a response by June 30 certifying they are in compliance. To date, only one has replied and we await the responses of the others. We will evaluate those responses to ensure the requirements of these grants are met. I once again urge these cities and jurisdictions to reevaluate their policies, protect their citizens and comply with the law.
We are pleased that the mayors who met with us today assured us they want to be in compliance with the law. The vast majority of state and local jurisdictions are in compliance and want to work with federal law enforcement to keep their communities safe. Of course, compliance with 8 U.S.C. 1373 is the minimum the American people should expect. We want all jurisdictions to enthusiastically support the laws of the United States that require the removal of criminal aliens, as many jurisdictions already do.
Breitbart Texas responded requesting a specific answer regarding the question of cities disregarding immigration detainers. A response from the DOJ was not immediately available.
However, in March, Sessions specifically referenced a Declined Detainer Outcome Report listing cities and counties that refused to honor immigration detainers during a White House press briefing. He referenced states and cities who have enacted policies commonly known as “sanctuary” policies, those which hinder the enforcement of federal immigration laws, Breitbart California’s Michelle Moons reported. “This includes refusing to detain known felons on federal detainer requests or otherwise failing to comply with these laws,” Sessions stated.
Sessions detailed several jurisdictions that refuse to honor ICE detainers, including San Francisco and Denver.
The President has rightly said, disregard for law must end. In his executive order he stated that it is the policy of the executive branch to ensure that states and cities comply with all federal laws including all immigration laws.
Today I’m urging states and local jurisdictions of comply with these federal laws including 8 USC section 1373. Moreover the Department of Justice will require that jurisdictions seeking or applying for Department of Justice grants to certify compliance with 1373 as a condition of receiving those awards. This policy is entirely consistent with the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs guidance that was issued just last summer under the previous Administration. This guidance requires state and local jurisdictions to comply and to certify compliance with section 1373 in order to be eligible for OJP grants. It also made clear that failure to remedy violations would result in withholding grants, termination of grants and disbarment or ineligibility for future grants.
Sessions cited the ICE Declined Detainer Outcome Report and said, “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 charges and convictions against these aliens include: drug trafficking, hit and run, rape, sex offenses against a child and even murder.”
“Such policies cannot continue,” Sessions concluded. “They make our nation less safe by putting dangerous criminals back on the streets.”