Feb 10, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Justice Department files new immigration lawsuits against "sanctuary" areas

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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Trump has declared war on sanctuary cities

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Armed with subpoenas, lawsuits and immigration SWAT teams, the Trump administration has declared war on sanctuary cities.

The big picture: President Trump and his administration have used every available tool to try to crack down on local governments that refuse to hold unauthorized immigrants in criminal custody, block immigration agents from working in county jails or deny federal authorities access to immigrants' records.

Court rules Trump administration can withhold funds from sanctuary cities

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the Trump administration can withhold millions of dollars in federal law enforcement grants from sanctuary cities and states that don't cooperate with immigration enforcement, AP reports.

The state of play: Seven states and New York City sued the U.S. government after the Justice Department said in 2017 it would withhold funds from cities and states that don't give immigration enforcement officials access to jails or notice when an undocumented migrant is scheduled to be released from jail, per AP.

Trump policies could scare immigrants away from coronavirus care

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Democrats and public health experts are concerned that the Trump administration's immigration policies could scare immigrants away from getting medical help as the coronavirus spreads.

What we're watching: Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told senators on Thursday that health care facilities are already "sensitive locations" where immigration enforcement isn't carried out, except in "exigent circumstances."

Go deeperArrowMar 6, 2020 - Health