Charging that so-called “sanctuary” cities that protect illegal immigrants are jeopardizing domestic security, Attorney General Bill Barr announced a number of additional sanctions that he called a “significant escalation” against left-wing local and state governments that obstruct the “lawful functioning of our nation’s immigration system.”
Barr said the Justice Department would immediately file multiple lawsuits against sanctuary jurisdictions for unconstitutionally interfering with federal immigration enforcement, and implement unprecedented national reviews of left-wing sanctuary governments and prosecutors.
“Let us state the reality upfront and as clearly as possible,” Barr began. “When we are talking about sanctuary cities, we are talking about policies that are designed to allow criminal aliens to escape. These policies are not about people who came to our country illegally but have otherwise been peaceful and productive members of society. Their express purpose is to shelter aliens whom local law enforcement has already arrested for other crimes. This is neither lawful nor sensible.”
The DOJ has now filed a federal complaint against the State of New Jersey seeking declaratory and injunctive relief “against its laws that forbid state and local law enforcement from sharing vital information about criminal aliens with DHS,” Barr said.
That was a reference to New Jersey Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive 2018-6, which the DOJ says illegally bars officials from sharing the immigration status and release dates of individuals in custody.
It also requires New Jersey law enforcement to “promptly notify a detained individual, in writing and in a language the individual can understand” if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) files an immigration detainer request for the individual.
Additionally, “we are filing a complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against King County, Washington, for the policy … that forbids DHS from deporting aliens from the United States using King County International Airport,” Barr said.
“Further, we are reviewing the practices, policies, and laws of other jurisdictions across the country. This includes assessing whether jurisdictions are complying with our criminal laws, in particular the criminal statute that prohibits the harboring or shielding of aliens in the United States,” Barr added, noting that the DOJ would support DHS with “federal subpoenas to access information about criminal aliens in the custody of uncooperative jurisdictions.”
Barr added, “We are meticulously reviewing the actions of certain district attorneys who have adopted policies of charging foreign nationals with lesser offenses for the express purpose of avoiding the federal immigration consequences of those nationals’ criminal conduct. In pursuing their personal ambitions and misguided notions of equal justice, these district attorneys are systematically violating the rule of law and may even be unlawfully discriminating against American citizens.”
Sanctuary cities, Barr said, are defined as those with policies that allow “criminal aliens to escape” federal law enforcement — and some jurisdictions are becoming “more aggressive” in undermining immigration authorities, with local politicians even developing “schemes” to circumvent immigration officials.
One of the worst examples was In 2018 when Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf blew the whistle on an imminent raid by federal immigration authorities, tweeting out a warning to illegal immigrants in advance and helping them hide.
As the president did during last week’s State of the Union address, the attorney general cited several instances in which illegal immigrants were able to commit deadly crimes because they were sheltered by left-wing sanctuaries.
“In November, ICE filed a detainer for an alien who was arrested for assaulting his own father,” Barr said. “The local police in New York City that had the alien in custody ignored the detainer. So the alien was released onto the streets, and last month, he allegedly raped and killed 92-year-old Maria Fuertes, affectionately known as ‘abuelita,’ a fixture of her Queens neighborhood.”
In October 2017, DHS “identified a convicted criminal alien with four prior removals at a city jail in Washington State,” Barr continued. “DHS filed a detainer. Subsequently, the alien fought with jail staff and was taken to a local medical center for treatment. But after receiving treatment, local officials released the alien in violation of the detainer. In January 2018, the alien was arrested and booked for murdering and dismembering his cousin.”
It is the “rule of law that is fundamental to ensuring both freedom and security,” Barr asserted, saying law enforcement officers are increasingly under fire in “heinous” attacks that “come against the backdrop of cynicism and disrespect for law enforcement.”
He concluded, “Today is a significant escalation in the federal government’s efforts to confront the resistance of ‘sanctuary cities.’ But by no means do the efforts outlined above signify the culmination of our fight to ensure the rule of law, to defend the Constitution, and to keep Americans safe. We will consider taking action against any jurisdiction that, or any politician who, unlawfully obstructs the federal enforcement of immigration law.”