In what I think is another distraction by the Trump Administration, Attorney General Sessions came out today and made a statement about sanctuary cities. The gist of the statement is that the Administration will not grant funds to cities who are sanctuary cities. The AG said that the number is in the billions. The AG also cited to several incidents where “illegal immigrants” killed US citizens, in what is a scare tactic to galvanize his base. I am not surprised by this statement but it has some grave consequences, which I will discuss in this post.
Why Should You Worry?
The first problem, and the main one, that I have with the statement is that the statement is not supported by evidence. The AG told us that most individuals the Administration is removing are “criminals” who have been convicted of murder and DUIs (I will come back to DUIs in a minute). No one disagrees that violent criminals should be removed from the US, unless they have some sort of relief from removal. After IIRIRA, individuals with serious crimes are barred from getting relief from removal. In other words, these individuals will get removed from the US regardless.
AG Sessions made it sound that immigrants are killers, which includes me, which is also a problem. Contrary to the Administration’s assertion, immigrants commit substantially less crimes than native-born Americans.
As to DUIs, the Board of Immigration Appeals, the appellate body for immigration cases has ruled several times that DUIs, without aggravating factors, are nor deportable offense. Coupled with the fact that enforcement priorities have changed, these statements reflect the Administration’s goal of removing as many as possible of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, and not only violent criminals.
Why Should Localities Refuse Detainer Orders?
Localities usually refuse detainers for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they are independent governments under the US Constitution. I believe that detainers violate the 10th Amendment because they federalize local police departments. Also, the federal government has not been financing these detainers, which means local authorities will not get reimbursed for holding someone, whose violation was so minor, that they should release him to save their resources. During the Obama Administration the federal government stopped using these detainer requests, especially after localities opposed them for lack of funding.
Th AG cited 8 USC 1373 to support the Administration’s position to block funding to sanctuary cities. The problem with 1372 is that it highly subjective and the Administration may use arbitrary rules to designate a city a “sanctuary city” even though it is complying with the law, like it is doing with LA. Until the federal government starts funding these local government, I believe that it is constitutional for them to deny such requests.
What Should You Do If You or a Loved One Falls Under a Detainer Request?
Contact and Immigration Attorney ASAP. If you can not afford one, contact the ACLU, Catholic Charities, or Lutheran Services to find a low bono or pro bono counsel. You can also contact us for help, and we would be more than happy to oblige.