Jeff Sessions Targeting of So-Called Sanctuary Cities Likely Unconstitutional, Experts Say

Analysts say the assault makes communities less safe and likely will be challenged in courts

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JEFF SESSIONS: States and local jurisdictions, to comply with these Federal laws, including 8U.S.C Section 1373; 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.

JAISAL NOOR: Days after the stinging failure to repeal and replace Obamacare, and amidst growing controversy over Trump’s ties to Russia, Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, launched a fresh assault on so-called sanctuary cities; threatening Federal funding to jurisdictions who refuse to cooperate with immigration law.

JEFF SESSIONS: Our nation is less safe. Failure to deport aliens who are convicted of criminal offences puts whole communities at risk, especially immigrant communities in the very sanctuary jurisdictions that seek to protect the perpetrators: DUIs, assaults, burglaries, drug crimes, gang rapes, crimes against children, and murderers.

JAISAL NOOR: However, analysts note the move is likely unconstitutional; contradicts studies that show cities with sanctuary policies have lower crime rates; and studies that show undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens. Sessions was met with promises of resistance from elected officials across the country.

SAL TINAJERO: Well, my reaction when I first heard that Mr. Sessions had threatened all sanctuary cities — it didn’t come as a big surprise, but I was a little frustrated, I’ll be honest with you, because I don’t think it really has much teeth. I think what it is is more of a political statement. Here you have an administration who tweets constantly about voter fraud; about wire-tapping; and they never have their facts behind them.

And here, they’re saying that they’re going to go after sanctuary cities -– why? When the definition of a sanctuary city is so different from city to city? The question is there are laws in place and either if you break those laws, then I can see you going after a city, but if a city hasn’t broken those laws, then what are you worried about? There’s no issue there.

JAISAL NOOR: Sal Tinajero, a Santa Ana City, California Council Member, was among those who vowed to take the Trump Administration to Court.

SAL TINAJERO: No, we’re going to file a lawsuit and we’re going to have to settle this in Court — because the reality is — how do you take money away that Congress has already voted to allocate? You can’t. Congress has to take another vote.

JAISAL NOOR: Meanwhile, Aysha a documented immigrant in a raid in Chicago; hundreds have been detained and deported during the first two months of the Trump Administration. However, President Obama deported a record number of undocumented immigrants. The Real News recently interviewed eminent historian Gerald Horn, about how Trump’s latest attacks are the latest in a long history, aimed at demonizing immigrants with the ultimate goal of keeping their labor cheap.

GERALD HORN: In my class, just a few weeks ago, I was able to get from YouTube these scenes from the Martin Scorsese film, “Gangs of New York” which presents a terrifying depiction of those so-called draft riots in Manhattan, in 1863. And certainly those riots were designed to split the laboring population of Manhattan. And in a like manner, sadly enough, when speaking to Congress just a few weeks ago, the U.S. President, Donald J. Trump was seeking to accomplish a similar purpose, when he raised the unfortunate and tragic shooting of the black youth in Los Angeles, Jamiel Shaw; supposedly and allegedly and purportedly killed by an undocumented Latino immigrant worker.

DONALD TRUMP: Jamiel, a 17-year-old son was viciously murdered by an illegal immigrant gang member, who had just been released from prison.

GERALD HORN: And it was clear, that the purpose of Mr. Trump raising this before a national, and indeed an international audience was to divide the working class on a black/brown axis.

JAISAL NOOR: And in a recent interview of The Real Baltimore, we explored how sanctuary cities can be a front line to the resistance against Donald Trump.

KIM BROWN: Welcome to The Real Baltimore. I’m your host, Kim Brown. Today we look at how cities and counties across the country are planning to defy President elect, Donald Trump’s campaign promise to immediately deport millions of undocumented immigrants; following an Obama Administration that carried out a record number of deportations.

DONALD TRUMP: What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers — we have a lot of these people, probably 2 million; it could even be 3 million — we’re getting them out of our country, or we’re going to incarcerate.

KIM BROWN: And Trump has also promised to cut Federal aid to sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that have policies that range from simply welcoming immigrants, to refusing to cooperate with Federal immigration authorities. And in a moment we’ll be joined by a panel of experts in our studio, but first our reporter, Jaisal Noor takes a look at what sanctuary cities are.

DONALD TRUMP: Block funding for sanctuary cities; we blocked the funding. No more funding.

JAISAL NOOR: Despite his threats to cut their Federal funding, Donald Trump’s election has prompted major cities, from New York to California, to declare they will oppose him.

RAHM EMANUEL: To be clear about what Chicago is: it always will be a sanctuary city.

JAISAL NOOR: The sanctuary movement has its roots in the 1980s, with churches offering shelter to Latin American refugees, fleeing the slaughter left in the wake of U.S.-backed death squads there. Today, hundreds of cities and counties around the country offer some type of sanctuary policy, which varies greatly by jurisdiction. But the term itself can be misleading.

FRED TSAO: I mean, from the right, the use of the term suggests that, you know, undocumented immigrants congregate in these cities and just are able to commit all sorts of crimes, and you know, basically the cities are law enforcement-free zones; which is certainly not the case.

JAISAL NOOR: Because there’s only about 5,000 Federal immigration officers nation-wide, authorities rely heavily on local authorities to help with deportations. Some of the strongest sanctuary policies exist in cities like Chicago, and the encompassing Cook County, which prevents local authorities from asking for immigration status; prevents the sharing of immigration status with Federal authorities; and refuses to hold immigrants without a warrant.

Courts have ruled these policies known as, “ICE Detainers” are unconstitutional, and violate the Fourth Amendment. On Monday, the Nation’s capital joined cities like Chicago, New York, and LA, by offering legal representation to undocumented immigrants facing deportation. Something not guaranteed in Immigration Courts, like it is under normal legal proceedings. Last year, grassroots groups and the ACLU helped defeat a measure aimed at banning funding for sanctuary cities in Florida.

BAYLOR JOHNSON: The bill was ultimately defeated, and we think that there are some real lessons here for folks in other states to learn, as well. And that is, you know, speak to law enforcement; that the Florida Sheriff’s Association opposes ICE Detainers. Even the Department of Homeland Security has acknowledged that there are serious, serious constitutional issues with these unconstitutional holds. So, when law enforcement is deciding how to allocate resources, they should be putting a priority on things that work and public safety.

JAISAL NOOR: And as far as Trump’s treats to cut funding to sanctuary cities, that would be likely challenged in court, experts tell us.

LENA GRABER: I think will inevitably end up in litigation. There’s a lot of legal constraints on what the Federal government can, and can’t do, to pressure states and localities to do what they want. And it’s really important to understand — sanctuary cities are not illegal policies; they’re not in defiance of Federal law; they’re in fact fully in line with our Federal system, that says that states and localities get to govern their own local priorities and resources.

Although, the Federal government can offer incentives to localities to do what they want, they can’t coerce. I think it will be a long time before we have a clear answer to this question, because there’s a lot to sort out, and the Trump Administration can’t do everything that it says it’s going to do.

KIM BROWN: Well, we’re now joined by our two guests in the studio, Elizabeth Alex, is the regional Director for Casa Baltimore, which is a leading immigrants’ rights organization; and we’re also joined WITH Mark Rodrigues. He’s a long-time immigrants’ rights activist. He currently serves as special assistant to Annapolis Alderman, Jer…

JAISAL NOOR: For more, go to The Real News.com. This is Jaisal Noor.

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