Washington Watch

Posted on: April 20th, 2017
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House Members Urge the Trump Administration to Stop Targeting Sanctuary Cities

32 members of Congress signed a letter addressed to the President, insisting that he cease his direct relinquishment of federal funding to sanctuary cities across the country. The letter, dated March 14, 2017, calls for the president to amend his executive order 13768 by omitting section 9(a) which instructs the federal government to withhold funding from “sanctuary” cities. Stating that over 600 cities have some sort of policy which could be interpreted to fall into that category, the letter argues that such action is unconstitutional and would be detrimental to the public safety and economy in these cities while undermining local governance.

The letter asserts the section’s flawed framework, as “sanctuary” cities are in compliance with federal law. The section of the order directs the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to assess jurisdictions that are noncompliant with 8 U.S.C. §1373 and implement measures to end federal funding awarded to these areas. The Congressmen argue the language of 8 U.S.C. §1373 indicates that state and local jurisdictions are not required to affirmatively collect immigration information, rather it prohibits restrictions on the sharing of that information. Furthermore, federal law does not oblige jurisdictions to honor immigration detainers, such as the forcible use of state resources for detaining individuals without a warrant, violating of the Fourth Amendment. Additionally, threatening to withhold federal funding until local and state jurisdictions conform to federal policy could be interpreted as coercion, violating the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution. Thus, if the federal government were to maintain this implemented policy, localities would likely initiate costly legal proceedings against the federal government, the results of which would likely be unfavorable for the federal government.

For more information, view the letter from Congress.


DOJ Releases Memo Asserting Renewed Commitment to Criminal Immigration Enforcement

Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions released a statement asserting the importance federal prosecutors should place upon criminal immigration enforcement. The AG identified and described specific offences which should receive priority treatment and consistent enforcement to deter unlawful conduct. He also indicated that another memorandum providing further guidance and aid in execution will be provided at some point in the future. Below is the list of offenses of which Sessions has placed an emphasis on enforcement.

  • 8 U.S.C. § 1324 (“[b]ringing in and harboring certain aliens.”)
    Sessions identified specific areas which he designated to receive more attention. If resources are limited, the Attorney instructed priority to be placed with individuals attempting to bring in or harbor three or more individuals, as well as aggravated circumstances such as serious bodily injury, sexual offenses, or death. Furthermore, Sessions placed priority on related offenses section 1327 “aiding or assisting to aid criminal aliens to enter” and section 1328 “importation of aliens for immoral purposes”.
  • 8 U.S.C. § 1325 (“[i]mproper entry by alien”)
    The Attorney General instructed Districts to consider felony prosecution under §1325 for situations in which the defendant has two or more prior misdemeanor improper entry convictions or one or more previous misdemeanor convictions for improper entry with aggravating circumstances. The non-exhaustive list of examples of aggravating circumstances provided include felony criminal history, gang affiliation or membership, multiple prior voluntary returns, prior removal, and deportation or exclusion. Felony prosecution should also be considered for §1325 any case in which a defendant knowingly enters a marriage with the purpose of evading any provision of immigration laws. Regarding misdemeanor violations, Sessions asked the U.S. Attorney’s offices on the Southwest border (namely, New Mexico, Arizona, Southern District of California, Southern District of Texas, and Western District of Texas) to coordinate with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in the production of procedural guidelines determining prosecution. This should be conducted with the goal of deterring first-time improper entrants. The deadline for guideline submission is April 24, 2017.
  • 8 U.S.C. § 1326 (“[r]eentry of removed aliens”)
    Prosecution for each illegal reentrant should be considered, but again, priority is placed upon defendants who have a prior conviction of an aggravated felony, have gang affiliation or membership, have one or more administrative or criminal immigration violations, have any prior criminal history which suggests the defendant poses a threat to public safety, or other aggravating circumstances.
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1028A (“[a]ggravated identity theft”) &
    18 U.S.C. § 1546 (“[f]raud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents.”)
    Each district was instructed to consider, to the extent practicable, prosecuting aggravated identity theft and document fraud in relation to the immigration offenses previously mentioned.
  • 18 U.S.C. § 111 (“[a]ssaulting resisting, or impeding” officers.)
    The AG also instructed each district to consider, to the extent practicable, prosecuting assault, resisting, or impeding officers who are engaging in the performance of their official duties in the administrative and criminal immigration context.

The Attorney General also provided guidance for sentencing of these federal cases. Sessions urged prosecutors to seek, within the scope of the law, orders of removal and supervised release. He acknowledged the ongoing efforts of prosecutors currently pursuing such cases and orders, and he asked that their efforts continue.

In order to more effectively further these objectives, the Attorney General instructed each of the Districts mentioned to designate a Border Security Coordinator by April 18, 2017. These Coordinators will be responsible for overseeing the investigation and prosecution of the offenses outlined in the report, part of which included attending training programs with other Coordinators regarding these offenses. Additional requirements of the Coordinators include providing legal advice and training to AUSAs regarding these offenses and maintaining and routinely reporting prosecutorial data regarding these offenses. The Coordinators are to assemble meetings with representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and all other departments of law enforcement deemed necessary to aid in this criminal immigration enforcement effort. The Coordinator will work with these groups in these meetings to collaborate to form specific immigration enforcement initiatives which will yield the greatest positive impact on public safety, initiate training programs, and facilitate information sharing.

For more information, view the Attorney General’s memorandum.


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