Wall Street Journal
By Laura Meckler
July 25, 2017
WASHINGTON—The Justice Department stepped up its pressure on so-called sanctuary cities Tuesday, saying it would withhold grant money from jurisdictions if they don’t allow federal immigration agents into local jails.
The agency announced it would also insist that local officials give federal immigration authorities 48 hours’ notice, if requested, when they are set to release someone from custody.
For months, the Trump administration has been pressuring local jurisdictions to honor the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s “detainers.” These requests ask local officials to hold people suspected of being in the U.S. illegally beyond their release times, so that the agency can arrest and possibly deport them. Many cities and counties resist, for both policy and legal reasons.
This week, the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts became the latest court to rule that these detainers are unlawful, and ordered Massachusetts authorities not to honor them.
Administration officials acknowledge that the detainers are requests, not orders, and the new Justice policy stops short of ordering local jails to hold suspects. Rather, they say, the policy orders that local officials notify the federal government when someone is set for release and then allow ICE into the facility to make the arrest. It is unclear if such a policy would pass muster with the courts.
The Justice Department said jurisdictions that don’t follow the rules would lose funding from the Byrne JAG grant program, a decades-old program that provided $347 million in criminal-justice funding to state and local governments last year.
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