Officials resist order to target immigrants
Posted January 30, 2018 7:29 p.m. EST
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Trump administration's latest attempt to pressure local and state governments to aid in immigration enforcement is under attack from police officials and prosecutors, including district attorneys in San Francisco and Contra Costa County, who say the Justice Department's demands are potentially dangerous.
In a filing Monday in federal court in Los Angeles, 33 current and former prosecutors, police chiefs and sheriffs condemned the Justice Department's requirement that cities and counties provide information about immigrants in their custody, and access to their jails, in order to receive grants from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS.
The funding, $14 billion nationwide since 1994, goes to hire and train officers to work with community members on promoting public safety.
``When people believe that contacting police or cooperating with prosecutors could lead to deportation for themselves and others, community policing breaks down and the entire community is harmed,'' the officers' lawyers said. They said the new requirement would force them to sacrifice ``building trust with immigrant communities and enhancing public safety'' in order to receive ``vital federal funds.''
Already, they said, cities are reporting that many Latinos have become more reluctant to report crimes to police. And studies show that ``crime is lower in statistically significant ways in counties that limit local involvement in federal immigration enforcement,'' the filing said.
Signers included District Attorneys George Gascon of San Francisco and Diana Becton of Contra Costa County; William Lansdowne, a former police chief in Richmond and San Jose; and another former Richmond police chief, Chris Magnus, who now holds that position in Tucson.
In a separate filing Monday, a group of local governments, including Oakland and the counties of Santa Clara, Monterey and Santa Cruz, said the administration's attempt to coerce them to enforce immigration laws ``undermines the very goal COPS grants are supposed to promote -- trust between communities and local law enforcement entities.''
The Justice Department did not immediately reply to a request for comment But Attorney General Jeff Sessions has repeatedly denounced the hundreds of cities, like San Francisco, with ``sanctuary'' policies that limit police cooperation with immigration officers. A California law that took effect this year likewise restricts local authority to hold immigrants in custody for delivery to federal agents.
``Protecting criminal aliens from federal immigration authorities defies common sense and undermines the rule of law,'' Sessions said last week in demanding immigration policy documents from 23 local governments, including San Francisco, Fremont, and Sonoma and Monterey counties.
Federal law requires state and local governments to allow their police to inform federal agents about the immigration status of inmates in their custody. The conditions the Justice Department has attached to federal grants go further and require local governments to give immigration agents access to their jails, and 48 hours' notice before releasing an undocumented immigrant from custody.
Federal judges in Chicago and Philadelphia have blocked the Justice Department from enforcing those conditions to withhold another set of federal grants that fund local crime-prevention programs. A federal judge in San Francisco has barred President Trump from enforcing a January 2017 order that spoke of withdrawing all federal funding from sanctuary cities.