Department of Justice Moves Against Sanctuary Jurisdictions

“Immigration Enforcement is an Essential Part of Law Enforcement”

By CIS on February 11, 2020

Washington, D.C. (February, 10, 2020) - Speaking at the National Sheriffs’ Association Conference, Attorney General William Barr announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) would be taking a variety of new actions against sanctuary jurisdictions (see the updated CIS map listing these jurisdictions). Barr stated that sanctuary policies jeopardize public safety and violate the supremacy clause of the Constitution by inhibiting immigration enforcement. He spelled out a series of options, from lawsuits to debarment from funds to potential criminal prosecution under the harboring provisions of federal law.

Read more: Jump-Starting the Federal Engine to Push Back Against Sanctuaries

Barr emphasized that sanctuary policies protect criminal aliens, estimated at approximately two million. In most jurisdictions ICE is able to initiate the removal of criminal aliens as soon as state and local charges are disposed of, but now too many sanctuary jurisdictions routinely jeopardize public safety by “thwarting the ability of federal officers to take custody and thereby help them escape back in to the community…Their express purpose is to shelter aliens whom local law enforcement has already arrested for other crimes."

Jessica Vaughan, the Center’s director of policy studies, said: “Attorney General Barr articulated the problems with sanctuary policies in a measured, compelling, no-nonsense way. He explained how sanctuary policies are not only a public safety hazard, but unlawful and unconstitutional to boot. We have seen that sanctuary politicians will not reverse these policies on their own, even in the wake of tragedies.”

Vaughan continued, “According to ICE, more than 10,000 criminal aliens freed by sanctuaries have re-offended after release. It’s appropriate that the federal government step in to protect our communities and defend the authority of immigration enforcement agencies. Barr clearly means business. Every sanctuary jurisdiction and every state and local lawmaker considering enacting such a policy should take his speech as a warning”

Barr announced several specific actions the DOJ is taking, including suing the New Jersey Governor and Attorney General for prohibiting state officials from sharing vital information about criminal aliens with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He also highlighted a complaint against King County, Washington for forbidding DHS for deporting aliens using the area International Airport, and a lawsuit filed against California’s prohibition of privately run immigration detention facilities.

Barr stated that the DOJ will be “reviewing the practices, policies, and laws of other jurisdictions across the country…in particular the criminal statute that prohibits the harboring or shielding of aliens in the United States.” Further, he said the DOJ would be looking at potential prosecution of individual officials, including district attorneys who have been charging non-citizens with lesser offenses to enable them to avoid potential deportation.

Barr’s speech ended with a warning, “We will consider taking action against any jurisdiction that, or any politician who, unlawfully obstructs the federal enforcement of immigration law.”