The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has decided upon carrying out more raids in local jurisdictions that have designated themselves as so-called sanctuaries for illegal immigrants. Cities that have passed legislation or have policies regarding sanctuary thereby limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities with regard to detainer requests. Such requests are made by federal immigration agencies of local jurisdictions to keep immigrants wanted for questioning or deportation.
On March 20, U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin validated the concerns of immigrant advocates over such targeting of sanctuary cities. The judge said, "There's been questions about whether Austin [Texas] is being targeted. We had a briefing.... that we could expect a big operation, agents coming in from out of town... it was at least related to us in that meeting that it was a result of the sheriff's new policy that this was going to happen."
Currently, Austin is in a running dispute with the Texas governor over its sanctuary policy. Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, told Fox News recently that he and the state goverment are “coming down hard on sanctuary city policies." He noted that Austin, the state capital city, has been designated by the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as the worst offender in the entire United States of America to its release of persons in jail for whom the city has received detainer requests.
This week, DHS released for the first time a list
of jurisdictions offering sanctuary. Among the crimes for which the agency wanted to conduct arrests were: assault, domestic violence, indecent exposure to a minor, burglary, forgery, and sexual assault. The list provides guidance as to the policies of each sanctuary jurisdiction: for example, some require a criminal warrant.
There are currently 34 local jurisdictions that are supporting a federal lawsuit filed by California’s Santa Clara County against the Trump administration over the president’s promise to withhold federal funds from sanctuaries for illegal immigrants. Among them are Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Los Angeles County, Santa Ana, Oakland, Chicago, Manhattan Beach, Salinas, and Santa Monica. Currently, it is estimated that 1 in 3 residents of California are foreign-born. In an amicus brief that was filed on March 22, these California jurisdictions argue that Trump’s January executive order is vague, does not provide due process, and violates the 10th Amendment of the Constitution by wresting power away from local governments. Therefore, they are asking a federal judge to issue a nationwide injunction.
Currently, there are over 400 jurisdictions in the U.S. offering some form of sanctuary, even while there is little agreement on the definition of sanctuary. In Los Angeles, for example, local officials have proclaimed that they will not assist federal law enforcement to deport Los Angeles residents. A statement from the city declared that it opposes what it regards as an “unlawful executive order,” and that its policies promote cooperation between our immigrant communities and law enforcement agencies.
San Francisco has also sued the federal government to block the order.