DOJ Budget Would Expand Local Immigration Enforcement

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The Justice Department is pushing in its new budget proposal to change federal law so that local jurisdictions can be forced to detain suspected illegal immigrants upon request, the Washington Post reports. The move would give the administration far more leeway to make good on its promise to crack down on “sanctuary cities,” although it would surely meet resistance from some local law enforcement agencies that do not want their officers used to enforce immigration law. “Having states and local jurisdictions enforce federal immigration law terrorizes immigrant communities and makes the whole community less, not more, safe, as police chiefs around the country recognize,” said Lee Gelernt of the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project.

The measure is unlikely to become reality. The budget request must be evaluated by Congress, and lawmakers are likely to change it substantially. The request demonstrates the lengths to which the Justice Department is willing to go to beef up immigration enforcement. DOJ asked for more authority to tie grant money to local jurisdictions’ cooperation with immigration enforcement. President Trump signed an executive order — which has since been blocked by a federal judge — threatening to cut off federal funds to “sanctuary cities.” Federal law limits the authority of the president and the attorney general to take real action. The law says only that cities must not restrict information sharing with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It does not mention instances in which the federal government learns that a person in local custody might be in the country illegally, and asks a jurisdiction to detain that person.

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