Sen­a­tors float so­lu­tion to sanc­tu­ary cities

Li­a­bil­ity pro­tec­tion could smooth co­op­er­a­tion be­tween par­ties

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Sen­a­tors said Tues­day they may have a bi­par­ti­san way of al­low­ing lo­cal po­lice to co­op­er­ate with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion agents, say­ing Congress could pass a law grant­ing the lo­cal­i­ties pro­tec­tion from li­a­bil­ity law­suits brought by il­le­gal im­mi­grants who claim they were de­tained too long.

Sen. Ron Johnson said it could be a “pretty sim­ple fix” to much of the sanc­tu­ary city fight that’s rag­ing across the coun­try.

“Let’s pass a law to give those lo­cal law en­force­ment of­fi­cials li­a­bil­ity pro­tec­tion,” the Wis­con­sin Re­pub­li­can and chair­man of the Se­nate Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee said. “That could clear up this whole dif­fer­ence.”

Sanc­tu­ary cities vary in their de­gree of re­fusal to co­op­er­ate with fed­eral de­por­ta­tion ef­forts. Some com­mu­ni­ties are ea­ger to defy the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, while oth­ers are re­luc­tant, say­ing they would co­op­er­ate but ei­ther lo­cal courts or their lo­cal gov­ern­ment lawyers have said they in­cur li­a­bil­ity by de­tain­ing im­mi­grants for fed­eral agents.

Mr. Johnson’s li­a­bil­ity pro­tec­tion wouldn’t solve the sit­u­a­tion of the more com­mit­ted sanc­tu­ar­ies, but could help those com­mu­ni­ties that want to co­op­er­ate but can’t be­cause of lo­cal le­gal ad­vice.

He floated his idea at a hear­ing Tues­day with Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee John F. Kelly, who had just had a stern ex­change with Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris, a Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat who was de­fend­ing sanc­tu­ary cities against fed­eral threats of los­ing money.

Put on the spot by Mr. Johnson, Ms. Har­ris said she would be open to the civil li­a­bil­ity pro­tec­tion bill.

“I would sup­port any fix that would not pull fund­ing for lo­cal law en­force­ment to meet the de­mands that they face around com­bat­ting ter­ror­ism,” Ms. Har­ris, a for­mer Cal­i­for­nia at­tor­ney gen­eral, said.

“Great. So this could be a bi­par­ti­san so­lu­tion,” Mr. Johnson said, mov­ing to lock in Ms. Har­ris’s co­op­er­a­tion.

The is­sue of li­a­bil­ity is pop­ping up across the coun­try.

Hen­rico County in Vir­ginia re­cently set­tled a law­suit brought by an il­le­gal im­mi­grant from El Sal­vador who sued af­ter the lo­cal jail held him for fed­eral agents, the Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch re­ported. The im­mi­grant had served his time for drunken driv­ing but the jail held him longer for U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment of­fi­cers to pick him up.

The Vir­ginia Sher­iff’s As­so­ci­a­tion told the news­pa­per it had been watching the case to see what ef­fect it would have on lo­cal au­thor­i­ties’ abil­ity to co­op­er­ate with ICE.

ICE asks com­mu­ni­ties to no­tify de­por­ta­tion of­fi­cers when an im­mi­grant tar­get is slated for re­lease from prison or jail, and in many cases asks the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to hold the per­son for up to 48 hours, un­til fed­eral of­fi­cers can show up to take cus­tody.

Many com­mu­ni­ties say they will com­ply with the no­ti­fi­ca­tion, but say they can­not hold some­one for longer without a war­rant. ICE war­rants are ad­min­is­tra­tive, which for some com­mu­ni­ties isn’t a solid enough le­gal ba­sis.

Ms. Har­ris said that leaves com­mu­ni­ties caught be­tween com­pet­ing forces. Their lo­cal le­gal ad­vis­ers of­ten tell them they can’t fully co­op­er­ate, while the Jus­tice De­part­ment has warned it will strip fed­eral grant money from ju­ris­dic­tions that don’t play ball.

Mr. Kelly, the Home­land Se­cu­rity sec­re­tary, said he’s sym­pa­thetic to those con­cerns, and said he tries, quietly, to work with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties who do want to co­op­er­ate, to see if they can find an ar­range­ment. It’s sim­i­lar to the ap­proach taken by for­mer Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Jeh Johnson, who tried to work out agree­ments with re­cal­ci­trant cities and coun­ties.


On Tues­day, Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John F. Kelly, (left), heard Sen. Ron Johnson’s idea for al­low­ing lo­cal po­lice to co­op­er­ate with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion agents. The Wis­con­sin Re­pub­li­can pro­posed a law that would give law en­force­ment of­fi­cials li­a­bil­ity pro­tec­tion. He called it a “pretty sim­ple fix.”

Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, said she would be open to the civil li­a­bil­ity pro­tec­tion bill. She once was Cal­i­for­nia’s at­tor­ney gen­eral.

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