Rahm Emanuel's Chicago has filed against the US Justice Department a lawsuit to block implementation of a policy which would deny to certain sanctuary cities funding for the Department's Public Safety Partnership Program. Policies of "sanctuary" cities vary but under its "welcoming city" ordinance, Chicago
bars police from providing federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials access to people in local custody unless they are wanted on a criminal warrant or have serious criminal convictions. It also prohibits allowing ICE agents to sue police facilities for interviews or investigations, and bars on-duty officers from responding to ICE questions or talking to ICE officials prior to a person's release from custody.
When Justice on June 20 identified the twelve cities (eight of them in states carried by Donald Trump) eligible to receive the grant for this new initiative, it declared "its efforts to fulfill President Trump’s commitment to reducing violent crime in America" in order "to fulfill the President’s promise to make America safe again."
It doesn't take a statistician or criminologist to recognize that street crime (as against, say, obstruction of justice by a chief executive) has dropped significantly the past quarter century and that the crime rate within the immigrant community is generally less than within the native-born community.
Emanuel has reasonably argued- as has nearly every other public official supportive of sanctuary cities- that when localities cooperate with federal immigration authorities, immigrants are reluctant to come forward to report crimes or to assist law enforcement in solving them.
But in its August 3 press release announcing that the law enforcement grants would not be made to cities which it believes are refusing to cooperate with its objectives, Justice announced its intention to "ask interested jurisdictions the following questions":
Does your jurisdiction have a statute, rule, regulation, policy, or practice that is designed to ensure that U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) personnel have access to any correctional or detention facility in order to meet with an alien (or an individual believed to be an alien) and inquire as to his or her right to be or to remain in the United States?
Does your jurisdiction have a statute, rule, regulation, policy, or practice that is designed to ensure that your correctional and detention facilities provide at least 48 hours advance notice, where possible, to DHS regarding the scheduled release date and time of an alien in the jurisdiction’s custody when DHS requests such notice in order to take custody of the alien?
Does your jurisdiction have a statute, rule, regulation, policy, or practice that is designed to ensure that your correctional and detention facilities will honor a written request from DHS to hold a foreign national for up to 48 hours beyond the scheduled release date, in order to permit DHS to take custody of the foreign national?
The federal government plans to require the jurisdiction to give the Department of Homeland Security notice that the suspected illegal immigrant is in custody and to honor a written request to hold him/her for DHS. It is not requiring the municipality to hold the individual for an indefinite period of time but merely for 48 hours. Nor is the municipality required to detain the person upon any request, instead only upon a written request.
These are eminently reasonable criteria, fulfillment of which does not require that the municipality assist the federal government in enforcing immigration policies or law. "Our job is to investigate crime, our job is not to investigate immigration status or documentation," the Chicago police superintendent remarks. However, the Justice Department is not demanding a locality inquire as to immigration status or documentation, only that it not prevent Homeland Security from doing so.
Mayor Emanuel charges "Chicago will not let our police officers become political pawns in a debate," though his city has the option of rejecting the Justice Department's requirements and simply foregoing the federal funds, otherwise expected to be $3.2 million this year. He might have demanded- more justifiably- that a warrant be issued in order to hold the "foreign national for up to 48 hours." It might be telling that, unless news reports of the matter are deficient, he has not done so.
Enforcement of immigration policies is a responsibility of the federal government rather than the local government. Nevertheless, Chicago's welcoming policy actually blocks the federal government from enforcing its own policies. The motives of Jeff Sessions- less so, those of Donald Trump- are not 99.98% pure.
Consider also the motives of Mayor Emanuel, who late last year established in partnership with the National Immigrant Justice Center a $1 million "legal protection fund" to assist immigrants threatened with deportation. That would be the same Rahm Emanuel who in 2013 closed 49 predominately black and Latino public schools- while opening 40 charter schools- when faced with a budget deficit.
Those are defective priorities, as are the arguments of the city of Chicago for anyone who believes a modicum of cooperation among law enforcement agencies is a good thing. Opposition to this particular immigration policy of the U.S. Justice Department is not a hill to die upon.