Feb 10, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Justice Department files new immigration lawsuits against "sanctuary" areas

Attorney General Bill Barr

Attorney General Bill Barr Photo: Leah Millis-Pool/Getty Images

The Department of Justice on Monday announced a slew of lawsuits targeting New Jersey, California and King County, Washington, over laws and policies that the agency claims make it harder to enforce federal immigration law.

Why it matters: The administration has long railed against "sanctuary cities" and has been rolling out retaliatory actions against states, counties and cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration law enforcement.

  • California recently passed a state law banning the use of private detention facilities.
  • New Jersey state laws prohibit state and local law enforcement from sharing certain information about immigrants in criminal custody.
  • King County prevents the Department of Homeland Security from deporting immigrants using the county's international airport.

Driving the news: Attorney General Bill Barr announced some of the lawsuits in a speech to the National Sheriffs' Association on Monday. He said the Justice Department is "reviewing the practices, policies and laws of other jurisdictions across the country" to determine whether they comply with laws that prohibit "harboring or shielding" unauthorized immigrants.

  • "We are robustly supporting DHS in its effort to use all lawful means to obtain the information it needs to carry out its mission," Barr said. He threatened the use of federal subpoenas to access information about immigrants who have committed crimes.
  • The department is also "meticulously reviewing the actions of certain district attorneys who have adopted policies of charging foreign nationals with lesser offenses" in order to avoid having those immigrants deported, Barr said.

The big picture: Last week, the Department of Homeland Security ended expedited airport processing programs for New Yorkers, citing state law that prevents federal immigration officials from accessing vehicle records without a court order.

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