In 2017, President Trump acted to block sanctuary cities from receiving grant monies if they flout our immigration laws, harbor dangerous criminals, and undermine cooperation between federal, state, and local law enforcement. And the Trump administration has taken consistent bold action to advance the President’s overarching policy objective—to stop dangerous sanctuary city practices.
When I was the Attorney General, I directed the Department of Justice to place certain conditions on Byrne JAG grants to cities and states, to ensure that they comply with federal law, give federal immigration authorities access to detention facilities, and provide 48 hours’ notice before they release a wanted illegal alien.
This week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unanimously upheld that policy as wholly lawful and affirmed the Federal government’s authority to apply sensible standards on grants of federal tax dollars.
This is not just about tens of millions of dollars in Department of Justice grants. It is about the rule of law and public safety.
Under our Constitution, the Congress has the right and explicit power to regulate our borders and immigration system. It is a federal prerogative as a matter of national sovereignty and defense.
Aliens who are illegally present in the United States face consequences, including removal. Those who break the laws of this country – especially dangerous and violent criminals – are not entitled to roam our streets.
But that is exactly the sort of right these so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions seek to give criminal aliens and want to use taxpayer funds to harbor them from justice.
That cannot and will not stand.
“Sanctuary” policies make us all less safe by protecting criminals at the expense of their victims. By perpetuating the lie that illegal aliens are immune from our laws, sanctuary jurisdictions encourage illegal immigration, human trafficking and violent crime.
One sanctuary state, Illinois, has now stopped notifying federal immigration authorities and law enforcement altogether when it releases convicted criminal illegal aliens from prison – including child sex predators and murderers — back onto the streets.
These policies have tragic consequences.
Last year, an illegal alien from Guyana, Reeaz Khan, stabbed his father and was arrested by New York police. But because New York City’s leaders declared it a sanctuary jurisdiction, when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requested to detain the alien, they were ignored.
In January, Khan was arrested for raping and murdering a 92-year old grandmother in Queens.
Last year in Seattle, an illegal alien and active MS-13 gang member named Carlos Orlando Iraheta-Vega was charged with auto theft and released from local custody after an ICE detainer was ignored. He later bashed in the head of and dismembered a 16-year old child.
Both were needless victims of illegal alien crime and are testament to the hubris of the sanctuary jurisdictions — and their leaders — that harbor criminal aliens.
Today, far too many entities are not cooperating with federal authorities and refuse to honor detainer requests. Fortunately, the majority still are willing and often eager to work with our immigration enforcement officials.
In 2019, ICE still managed to arrest over 1,900 aliens with convictions or charges for homicide, 1,800 charged or convicted kidnappers, and 12,000 sex offenders.
Those criminal aliens, who include the savage killers of MS-13, have no right to protection.
And state and local law enforcement cooperation with the federal government is essential to ensuring public safety.
Long-established cooperative principles among law enforcement agencies require that all agencies pursue the same objective – public safety – above their own parochial interests. As immigration enforcement is a federal power, local and state actors cannot and should not interfere and have no right to taxpayer-funded grants if they help criminal aliens break our laws. These jurisdictions simply must rethink these reckless and lethal policies and start to cooperate with federal law enforcement.
I am heartened but not surprised that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with me, writing: “coordination between the State and DHS is not only appropriate, but necessary, to allow the federal agency effectively to resume its obligations when the State has achieved its penal ones.”
Our Constitutional order, the rights of crime victims, and our vital law enforcement partnerships trump scofflaw states and localities’ rights to taxpayer funds.
Jeff Sessions was the 84th Attorney General of the United States and previously served as the U.S. Senator from Alabama.