A new report from some of the nation's top law officials suggests that the Trump administration doesn't fully understand the law when it comes to having local cops cooperate with federal immigration officials on matters of deportation.
President Trump has proposed withholding certain federal funding from immigrant-filled cities like Los Angeles, where police Chief Charlie Beck has vowed not to hunt for the undocumented. (Beck fears alienating potential witnesses and deterring 911 calls.) Trump wants full local cooperation in his effort to deport millions of people in the country illegally. A federal judge last month temporarily blocked Trump's plan. Now a new report from the attorneys general of California, New York, the District of Columbia, Rhode Island, Oregon and Washington questions the very basis of the administration's stance.
The key assertion of Setting The Record Straight On Local Involvement In Federal Civil Immigration Enforcement: The Facts And The Laws is that local cops are acting faithfully within federal law when they refuse to participate in immigration enforcement.
"LEAs [local law enforcement agencies] that elect to limit their involvement in civil immigration enforcement are
acting lawfully and potentially shielding their jurisdictions from legal liability," according to the report. "Federal law does not compel state and local governments and LEAs to participate in federal civil immigration functions. Nor could it under the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution."
As for withholding federal funding from sanctuary cities or states, the report says: "Moreover, LEAs that decline to detain individuals pursuant to ICE detainer requests do not, on that basis, violate 8 U.S.C. § 1373, a limited information-sharing statute that serves as one of the federal administration’s stated reasons for cutting off federal funding to a jurisdiction."
The report accuses the Trump administration of "misinformation" and says it has "created an inaccurate and misleading picture of LEA activities." It also argues that urban police need to foster good will in immigrant neighborhoods, of which there are many in L.A., instead of being seen as a potential deportation force.
The report quotes Beck's January remarks on why it's important to stand up against Trump's plan: "When you create a shadow population ... that fears any interaction [with law enforcement], then you create a whole population of victims, because they become prey for human predators who extort them or abuse them because they know they won’t contact the police."
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This week Beck and federal officials made it clear that a crackdown on the Mara Salvatrucha gang (MS-13) was not related to any of the suspects' immigration status and that witnesses' documentation would not be checked. "Without their cooperation as witnesses, none of this would be possible," the chief told reporters Wednesday.
Carlos Montes, a longtime immigrants' rights advocate with the Community Service Organization, says he would like City Hall to take the hands-off policy a step further and formally declare that Los Angeles is a sanctuary city, words that Mayor Eric Garcetti doesn't seem fully comfortable with. But he agrees that "plain and simple, police are supposed to do policing, not enforce federal immigration law."
In a statement, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said that taking immigration enforcement out of local police duties is essential in California, where fear of deportation is high among many of its 10 million immigrants.
"This is about maintaining trust and cooperation between police and the communities they serve," he said. "People should feel confident to come forward to report crimes or participate in policing efforts without fear of deportation, losing their jobs, or being separated from their families. This report provides the facts to counter the Trump Administration’s fear-mongering and outright falsehoods about our state’s public safety policies."