Sanctuaries Update: 1 Down, 305 to Go

By Jessica M. Vaughan on August 5, 2016

One of Sheriff Mark Garber's first acts upon taking office in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, last month was to rescind the controversial and misguided sanctuary policy that had been implemented by his predecessor. The approximately 300 other jurisdictions around the country that have similar policies obstructing immigration enforcement would be wise to follow suit.

These policies are inconsistent with federal law, according to a new report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General (OIG), and could result in debarment from certain federal grants, claw backs of previously awarded funds, or other consequences, including prosecution. This report was requested by Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), who chairs the House appropriations sub-committee in charge of the DOJ budget.

The OIG used a list of sanctuary jurisdictions published by the Center for Immigration Studies and determined which of those agencies had received the most funding from DOJ. Their policies were examined for compliance with 8 USC 1373, which states that state and local governments may not have policies, ordinances, or practices that "in any way" prohibit state or local officials from communicating or exchanging information with federal immigration agencies.

Among the OIG findings:

  • All of the 10 jurisdictions selected for the OIG investigation had sanctuary policies that were inconsistent with federal law. The jurisdictions were: the state of California; the state of Connecticut; Chicago; Clark County, Nev. (home of Las Vegas); Cook County, Ill. (which includes Chicago); Miami-Dade County, Fla.; Milwaukee County, Wisc.; Orleans Parish, La. (New Orleans); New York City; and Philadelphia.
  • These 10 jurisdictions received more than $342 million from DOJ, representing 63 percent of the total value of the active DOJ law enforcement funding at the time of the report.
  • In addition to the 10 sanctuaries that were investigated, the report identified several others with problematic policies: Newark, N.J.; Taos, N.M.; New Orleans; and San Francisco.
  • Common efforts by sanctuaries to evade the applicability of 8 USC 1373 with a "savings clause," for example by including language that says "except as provided under federal law" are not sufficient to be considered compliant with federal law and will not protect them from potential consequences of maintaining a sanctuary policy.

The OIG recommended four steps that DOJ could take to make sure that no federal funding is awarded to non-compliant jurisdictions: 1) tell jurisdictions that they are expected to comply with 8 USC 1373 as a condition for receiving DOJ funding; 2) require them to certify and document that they are compliant when they apply for funding; 3) consult with ICE about whether the jurisdictions are cooperating; and 4) ensure that jurisdictions inform their personnel that they are allowed to communicate and share information with ICE.

The application deadline for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program funds, in which the DOJ provides partial reimbursement for incarcerating criminal illegal aliens, was in April, 2016. DOJ has had language on its web site about the requirement to comply with 8 USC 1373, together with a warning of the consequences for non-compliance, which include criminal prosecution for a false statement.

ICE provided the OIG with an updated list of 155 jurisdictions that have a policy or law that limits or prohibits cooperation with ICE and that had rejected detainers between January 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015. According to a similar report published by the Texas Tribune covering a slightly different time period, there were 165 counties and 1,160 detention locations in the United States that had rejected detainers between January 2014 and September 2015.

In the near future, the Center will publish an updated map and list of sanctuary jurisdictions to reflect this new information.