In a White House press briefing Monday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he will try to ensure so-called sanctuary cities do not receive federal grants from the Department of Justice.
An executive order from President Trump already spelled out plans to cut off federal funding to cities and counties that restrict their staff from cooperating with immigration agents.
Sessions reiterated the administration’s position that counties and cities that do not honor ICE detainers put the nation at risk.
“DUIs, assaults, burglaries, drug crimes, gang crimes, rapes, crimes against children and murders. Countless Americans would be alive today — and countless loved ones would not be grieving today — if the policies of these sanctuary jurisdictions were ended,” he said.
Portland and Multnomah County declared themselves sanctuary jurisdictions that limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities, and the entire state of Oregon is sometimes referred to as a “sanctuary state.”
County sheriffs in Oregon, citing a 2014 Oregon court case, say they can no longer comply with ICE detainers — essentially, a request from the federal government to hold a person in jail past their scheduled release date to coordinate transfer into immigration detention.
In his remarks Monday, Sessions gave a more detailed explanation of how the DOJ will try to penalize sanctuary jurisdictions.
He said cities and counties that want to receive grants from the Department of Justice will have to prove they comply with federal law — specifically 8 U.S. Code § 1373, which requires them to share information with immigration authorities.
“The Department of Justice will also take all lawful steps to claw back any funds awarded to a jurisdiction that willfully violates 1373,” Sessions said.
That part of the U.S. code has received attention from Republican lawmakers, including Sessions, in the past.
Last year, lawmakers asked the DOJ inspector general to investigate whether sanctuary jurisdictions were violating that law. The inspector general concluded that some jurisdictions could be violating it.
Local leaders in the Portland area dismissed the attorney general’s remarks as political showmanship.
“I think it’s just a continued effort on the part of the Trump administration to distract the public from the real issues,” said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. “President Trump has just been handed a major defeat by his own party.”
Multnomah County receives approximately $2.5 million in federal funding and does not expect to lose any of it.
Kafoury said the county is not aware of any new restrictions placed on federal grants. She said the county complies with all federal laws, including 8 U.S.C. 1373.
“Current law does not require states to assist federal immigration authorities. That is because the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the federal government from commandeering state resources and personnel to carry out federal policy objectives,” she noted.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler called Sessions’ remarks “inaccurate and harmful.”
He noted that over the weekend ICE arrested a young Oregon man, Francisco J. Rodriguez Dominguez, who was participating in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Rodriguez-Dominguez had been arrested for drunk driving, a misdemeanor, and was participating in a diversion program. He works with Mulntomah County’s Sun Schools program and coaches a soccer team at Glenfair elementary, according to a press release from the ACLU of Oregon.
“Far from being a violent criminal, Francisco is a respected member of the community, a student, and a volunteer. This arrest does nothing to promote public safety,” Wheeler said.
Rodriguez-Dominguez will be released on bond, the Associated Press reported Monday afternoon.
The city of Portland has received about $3 million worth of DOJ grants in recent years.