Yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new front in the administration’s war against states and localities that dare to protect the trust and safety of immigrant communities. The Department of Justice seeks to impose new restrictions on federal funding for local law enforcement through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (Byrne JAG). Restricting this federal funding is an attempt to force localities to sign up for the administration’s mass deportation agenda by turning local jails into the first stop of a deportation pipeline that disproportionately impacts communities of color and undermines local trust in law enforcement.
“We should be better than this,” said Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director of the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC). “This announcement is nothing more than a smokescreen to conscript localities into the administration’s anti-immigrant agenda. Even the Attorney General must know that his rhetoric regarding community safety is dangerously misinformed.”
The new federal mandate would require localities to expend local time and money to participate in a federal enforcement program that is riddled with illegalities and centered around a detainer practice that federal and state courts have repeatedly found to violate federal and state law, as reflected in NIJC’s recent successful litigation. Specifically, the Attorney General’s announcement requires that grant recipients: 1) certify compliance with 8 U.S.C. 1373, a limited federal law that prohibits restrictions on certain information sharing between localities and the federal government; 2) provide U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) free and unfettered access to their local jails, at any time of day or night and without regard to the costs imposed; and 3) expend time and energy to track any federal requests for information, and then to communicate with ICE 48 hours in advance of releasing people from custody.
The policies advanced in the Attorney General’s announcement are unlawful and will have tragic consequences for the well-being and safety of all American communities by undermining common sense policies that focus cooperation with federal immigration law enforcement on the ways most likely to protect community safety and trust.
NIJC stands proudly with those localities and states who continue to fight for their immigrant communities and for the safety of all communities by adopting smart policies limiting cooperation with ICE. We applaud the bravery and resistance we are certain to hear from these localities in the face of the administration’s bullying, and NIJC expects to support those efforts through litigation.