Sanctuary City Showdowns | The Weekly Standard

Sanctuary City Showdowns | The Weekly Standard.

Federal and state policymakers are trying to rein in cities that don’t work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Sanctuary cities are finding themselves suddenly on the defensive, as the Justice Department and state legislatures are looking to force cooperation between local police and federal immigration enforcement.

In the last few weeks, state and federal policymakers have taken steps to rein in cities that bar their police officers and jails from working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to identify and deport illegal immigrants who have committed crimes. In response, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday sued in federal court to block those moves by the administration.

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Hundreds of immigrants and allies protest in New York City. Photo credit: Erik McGregor / Sipa via AP Images
Sanctuary cities are finding themselves suddenly on the defensive, as the Justice Department and state legislatures are looking to force cooperation between local police and federal immigration enforcement.

In the last few weeks, state and federal policymakers have taken steps to rein in cities that bar their police officers and jails from working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to identify and deport illegal immigrants who have committed crimes. In response, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday sued in federal court to block those moves by the administration.

The efforts represent a significant pushback to the estimated 140 to 300 sanctuary jurisdictions nationwide, which cropped up in recent years amid concerns about an increase in deportation under the Obama administration. Sanctuary cities are characterized by their refusal to abide by requests by ICE to hold a jailed inmates suspected of being in the country illegally, or at least to notify local ICE officials that the inmate is about to be released.

In a July cover story, THE WEEKLY STANDARD followed an ICE enforcement team in the Los Angeles area as it sought illegal immigrants, many of whom had been released from local jails after serving time for crimes including domestic abuse, assault with a deadly weapon, and drug charges. The article explored how and why sanctuary city policies hinder federal enforcement.

Some of the recent examples of the legal and political pressure being applied to sanctuary cities include:

New federal grant guidelines. In the last two weeks, the Justice Department has sent a series of letters to cities, asking them to prove they are cooperating with federal immigration enforcement before becoming eligible to receive law-enforcement grants.

It was these guidelines that sparked the blowup over the weekend between the Justice Department and Chicago.Emanuel said, “Chicago will not be blackmailed into changing our values.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a statement Monday, replied that “No amount of taxpayer dollars will help a city that refuses to help its own residents.”

Miami, though, has taken a different approach: It modified its policies to conform with Justice Department requests, and on Friday received word that it would not be punished for non-cooperation.

New state laws. Texas is gearing up for the Sept. 1 implementation of a new state law requiring cities to cooperate with requests from federal immigration officials. Activists and the media are ramping up protests. At least 33 states are considering legislation this year that would restrict sanctuary cities, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. There are 26 states in which Republicans control the governorship and legislature.

As with Chicago in federal court, some of Texas’ largest cities are hoping that judges will put its new law on hold.

Threat of prosecution. In a July interview with the Washington Times, acting ICE director Thomas Homan said he is looking at possible federal charges against local officials who allow criminal aliens back into their communities. Federal law says that it is a crime if somebody “conceals, harbors, or shields from detection” an immigrant who is in the country illegally.

“I think these sanctuary cities need to make sure they’re on the right side of the law,” he said. “They need to look at this. Because I am.”

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