Politics

Trump Targets Sanctuary Cities with Transparency

Executive order instructs DHS to publish 'comprehensive list' of illegal immigrant crime data

Buried deep in President Trump’s executive order outlining new immigration enforcement polices is a simple but potentially powerful requirement to report statistics on crimes committed by illegal immigrants and highlight intransigence by state and local governments.

Trump’s main line of attack against so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions is to target law enforcement grants from the Department of Homeland Security. But the executive order includes more subtle sticks. It requires the agency to publish weekly reports detailing crimes committed by illegal immigrants and jurisdictions that fail to honor requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to transfer jail inmates to federal jurisdiction.

“It’s very significant. One thing the public has been deprived of is the truth about what’s going on with immigration.”

“It’s very significant,” said Dale Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of the Immigration Reform Law Institute. “One thing the public has been deprived of is the truth about what’s going on with immigration … We were very pleased to see President Trump included that in his order.”

Trump’s executive order comes as Wilcox’s sister organization, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, published a report detailing how far the sanctuary city movement has grown. The organization, which favors tighter immigration enforcement, counted 300 jurisdictions — cities, counties, and three states — with laws or policies impeding immigration enforcement.

“There are definitely more” than the last time FAIR tallied sanctuary polices in 2013, spokesman Ira Mehlman said. “The Obama administration sent a clear signal to go ahead and do this, ‘because we’re not interested in enforcing the law.'”

A majority of the 300 jurisdictions cited in the report adopted their policies during Barack Obama’s presidency.

Even the Obama administration, however, opposed some policies of cities and counties. Under pressure from Rep. John Culberson, a Texas Republican who chairs the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Justice Department, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch put cities on notice that they would lose certain grants if they did not begin cooperating by July 2017.

A majority of the sanctuary policies detailed in the report forbid officials from honoring hold requests, known as detainers, in all or some cases. While some flat-out will not keep prisoners in jail so that immigration authorities can pick them up, other jurisdictions honor detainers only on certain conditions.

In Fulton County, home to Atlanta, the sheriff’s office honors detainers only when a judicial warrant has been issued. In Philadelphia, under a policy adopted last year, no person in city custody shall be detained at ICE’s request unless he or she is being released after a convictions on a first- or second-degree felony crime of violence and there is a judicial warrant. Florida’s Pasco County will not honor a detainer “without probable cause.”

They are just a few examples of the policies in place across the country. Some jurisdictions forbid employees even from informing ICE agents when illegal immigrant prisoners will be released.

Mayors from New York’s Bill de Blasio to Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles have vowed to keep their policies. But others are reconsidering already. On Thursday, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez ordered county jails to comply with immigration detainers.

Mehlman said other jurisdictions likely will follow suit.

“When faced with the prospect of actually losing a lot of money, particularly considering how cash-strapped a lot them are, they might think differently,” he said. “I suspect a lot of mayors and county executives are not quite as wedded to these policies as Bill de Blasio and Eric Garcetti appear to be.”

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Wilcox said Trump’s order to publish crime and detainer data could help shame local governments into changing their policies. Many residents of those cities and counties might not even realize that their elected officials are protecting criminals from deportation, he said.

“If you were to subject this to a public vote, you know what the answer would be,” he said.

Wilcox said reporting the crime data will be more difficult to achieve. Trump has direct control over only the minority of crimes prosecuted in the federal system. And that will require new data-gathering procedures, he said. He said the FBI told his firm, when it sued last month to gain access to similar information, that the records did not exist.

“I’m sure the number’s going to be substantial in proportion to the citizen and legal alien population,” he said. “Any information is better than no information.”

Mehlman agreed that weekly reports could having a shaming effect.

“It’s more than that,” he said. “One of the things that happens is willful blindness on the part of jurisdictions.”

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