By David Cruz
The administration has pivoted from its health care debacle and turned to another favorite issue — immigration enforcement. Specifically: targeting so-called sanctuary cities, those places that have said they will not cooperate with federal immigration officers when it comes to unauthorized immigrants. This week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions drew a line in the sand.
“Those policies cannot continue,” he warned. “They make our nation less safe by putting dangerous criminals back on the streets.”
Sessions pointed to the recent release of the Declined Detainer Outcome Report from the Department of Homeland Security, which showed more than 200 instances of jurisdictions refusing to honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests. Sessions said sanctuary city policies endanger the very people they’re intended to protect.
“Today, I’m urging states and local jurisdictions to comply with these federal laws, including 8 USC Section 1373,” he said. “Moreover, the Department of Justice will require that jurisdictions seeking or applying for department of justice grants to certify compliance with 1373 as a condition of receiving those awards.”
8 USC section 1373 requires jurisdictions to cooperate with ICE requests for information on the immigration status of any individuals. Sessions said the administration will “claw back” funding for any jurisdiction that’s getting DOJ money currently and said that they will withhold grants, terminate grants and render jurisdictions ineligible for future grants. The mayor of the state’s largest city was defiant.
Ras Baraka called the policy “…both illegal and unconstitutional…” and said Newark will “…join with other sanctuary cities to take legal action against this misguided policy.” In North Hudson County, where the majority of the population is made up of immigrants, West New York Mayor Felix Roque was less outwardly defiant but no less opposed to the policy.
“I’m a law-abiding person,” he said. “I’m the mayor and I’m also the public safety commissioner, but I took an oath and the oath was to protect the residents of West New York, and they are the same as us. They’re human beings just like us. It doesn’t matter to me — color, creed or religion. I’m here to protect them and I am going to protect them.”
Roque said the administration’s rhetoric has sent a chill through his community. Bergenline Avenue, the city’s main commercial thoroughfare, has been less crowded of late, and it’s not the rain, said the mayor.
“Bergenline is pretty much empty during the day,” he said. “They come out at after dark. I can tell you that business owners have complained that there’s no longer the thriving business that we used to get on Bergenline Avenue.”
Meeting in Washington with families of recently deported immigrants, Sen. Bob Menendez said he’s introducing legislation to fight the administration’s policy, the usually reserved senator moved to tears.
“I hope when I see President Trump I can do justice to Fatima’s story and Rosa’s story because when I listen to the president speak, he talks about bad hombres,” said the senator. “Well certainly their father, and Rosa’s husband, they’re not bad hombres.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Chris Christie showed none of that emotion. “If they engage in voluntary conduct,” he said, “and they think it’s important enough for their taxpayers to pick up the tab, then it’s their call. Mayor Fulop, Mayor Baraka, have at it.”
Jersey Mayor Steve Fulop — whose city just got almost $2 million in federal dollars to hire new cops — had no comment today. It’s unclear when the Trump administration would start to claw back funds, but a legal challenge is sure to follow its first attempt.