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- In order for US cities to participate in the Justice Department’s Public Safety Partnership (PSP) program, “local jurisdictions must show a commitment to reducing crime stemming from illegal immigration,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement released on 3 August.
- “The PSP program was announced in June and is a training and technical assistance program designed to enhance the capacity of local jurisdictions to address violent crime in their communities,” the statement said.
- The statement named the following four cities who expressed interest in the PSP program, noting that letters were sent to each city stating that they would be required to answer questions aimed at determining whether they were “sanctuary cities” before eligibility for participating int he PSP could be determined:
- Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Baltimore, Maryland
- San Bernardino, California
- Stockton, California
- CNN Politics defines “sanctuary cities” as “jurisdictions that have policies in place designed to limit cooperation with or involvement in federal immigration enforcement actions. Cities, counties and some states have a range of informal policies as well as actual laws that qualify as ‘sanctuary’ positions.”
- The PSP program began in June in 12 locations, and the DOJ may expand the training and assistance program to other jurisdictions within the year, according to Sessions’ statement.
- The original 12 locations included:
- Birmingham, Alabama;
- Indianapolis, Indiana;
- Memphis, Tennessee;
- Toledo, Ohio;
- Baton Rouge, Louisiana;
- Buffalo, New York;
- Cincinnati, Ohio;
- Houston, Texas;
- Jackson, Tennessee;
- Kansas City, Missouri;
- Lansing, Michigan;
- Springfield, Illinois
- The original 12 locations included:
- The letters sent to the four new cities that expressed interested in joining the PSP program contained the following language pertaining to selection for participation:
“In determining which sites to select, the Department considered both quantitative and qualitative measures, in consultation with United States Attorneys and Department law enforcement partners. To be considered for selection, a site must: (1) demonstrate a complete commitment to reducing violent crime; (2) have sustained levels of violence that exceed the national average; and (3) be ready to receive the intensive training and technical assistance offered by the Department…
“The Department is reviewing your jurisdiction’s commitment to reducing violent crime stemming from illegal immigration. To aid the Department in its review, please respond to the following questions no later than August 18, 2017.”
“1. 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?”
“2. 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?”
“3. 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?”
- Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry denied that Albuquerque is a “sanctuary city,” and said that the city has been trying to cooperate with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since he took office in 2009, despite a decrease in ICE staffing levels, according to ABC News.
- “If your agency has questions or concerns with our (Bernalillo) County jails, I would refer you to their leadership,” Berry reportedly wrote in a reply letter to Sessions.
- Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said in a statement tweeted on 3 August:
“When the original PSP jurisdictions were selected by DOJ, it was done so without a formal selection process. We remain unaware of any formal selection process, but are now aware that federal immigration enforcement criteria appears to be a primary consideration…
Baltimore is a welcoming city. We do not enforce federal immigration laws. We do not ask people questions about their immigration status. We do, however, enforce the criminal laws of the state of Maryland and honor criminal arrest warrants obtained by federal law enforcement agencies…
The Baltimore Police Department remains committed to pursuing the best training and technical assistance opportunities available, and we have adopted many best practices since 2015 that are improving our capacity to respond to the many dynamics that give rise to violent crime in our community. We are determined to accomplish these improvements while maintaining our respect for all people who call Baltimore home.”
- Peter Simonson, executive director of New Mexico’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), office said on 3 August:
“This is a bullying tactic from an attorney general who is so determined to make misery in the lives of immigrant families that he’s willing to withhold federal crime fighting dollars from a city that sorely needs it. When local police become immigration enforcers, people in immigrant communities fear going to them for help, even when they are victims or witnesses of crime. When their public safety suffers, everyone’s public safety suffers Jeff Sessions doesn’t know what’s best for our City. The people of Albuquerque know what’s best for our City, and we have already decided how our police should do their jobs. This attorney general’s actions are petty, coercive, and dangerous for our community. We urge our City leaders to reject this assault on our autonomy.”
- Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones told ABC News that he continues to stand by his department’s decision not to “stop, detain or question anyone based solely on actual or suspected immigration status,” with exceptions, but that the questions in the letter do not pertain to his role in immigration enforcement. Jones added:
“The questions are really quite simple because it is about correctional facilities and really the policy around that. Well, we as a police department do not have correctional facilities.”
- Jones said he hopes to participate in the PSP program will answer the questions in the letter.
- San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said that San Bernardino “is not a sanctuary city” in a statement released on 3 August:
“In a release issued [Thursday] by the US Department of Justice, the Department cited three separate criteria each jurisdiction would have to comply with to seek inclusion in the (PSP) program. Each of these provisions are directed at jurisdictions who operate correctional or detention facilities. The City of San Bernardino Police Department does not operate a jail facility. Those individuals arrested by the Police Department are booked and lodged into the custody of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Any questions or inquiries in regards to detention procedures and policies of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department should be referred to their respective agency. Again, given that the City does not operate a jail facility, we do not meet the criteria set forth in the inquiry and we will be responding with that information to the Department of Justice in the coming days.”
Stephanie Haney contributed to this report.