New ‘sanctuary city’ threat by Trump angers US mayors

  • FILE - In this May 1, 2017 file photo, immigrant rights advocates speak out against immigration policies of President Donald Trump while placing themselves in mock detention in Albuquerque, N.M., to mark May Day. The U.S. Justice Department is including New Mexico's most populous county in an effort to pressure cities to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Bernalillo County was one of roughly two dozen jurisdictions to receive warning letters Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, from the Justice Department. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File) Russell Contreras

Tribune Washington Bureau
Wednesday, January 24, 2018

WASHINGTON — Eager to show that his administration could provide leadership on two of the nation’s biggest issues, President Donald Trump scheduled a White House meeting to talk with America’s mayors on infrastructure and opioids.

Instead of showcasing an initiative that Trump has touted, the meeting became another battleground in the fierce year-long fight over illegal immigration. The mayors of New York, Chicago and New Orleans, all Democrats, boycotted after the Justice Department sent threatening letters Wednesday morning to 23 states, cities and counties over their sanctuary policies.

The letters demanded records showing whether police or corrections agencies are sharing information with federal agents about the immigration status of people in their custody. If the cities don’t comply, the department said, it will issue subpoenas or cut off certain federal grant funds.

The administration insists that cities and counties have an obligation to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement when an undocumented person is about to be released from jail.

“We have seen too many examples of the threat to public safety represented by jurisdictions that actively thwart the federal government’s immigration enforcement — enough is enough,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement on Wednesday.

Some police chiefs and mayors argue that complying with the Justice Department’s requests would actually undermine public safety, by driving immigrants underground and making them reluctant to talk to police.

The letters were met with defiance by some big-city leaders, who were in Washington for the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“I will NOT be attending today’s meeting at the White House after @realDonaldTrump’s Department of Justice decided to renew their racist assault on our immigrant communities,” tweeted New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had been on the invite list.

“It doesn’t make us safer and it violates America’s core values.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who had not been invited to the White House, derided the latest letters as empty threats and “nothing but a distraction.”

“We’ve often had to help each other out. Rahm, today we may have to bail each other out,” Garcetti said in remarks at the mayors’ conference, nodding to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Trump often railed against sanctuary policies during the campaign, and a crackdown on sanctuary jurisdictions was one of his first actions as president. Sessions has repeatedly denounced the policies as a hazard to public safety and has used the leverage of justice grants to pressure cities into compliance.

But little concrete has happened. The cities fought back with court challenges, and federal judges in San Francisco and Chicago have issued rulings that sharply limited the administration’s attempt to tie grant funds to cooperation with immigration enforcement.