Sanctuary compliance doesn’t bother some police
DOJ has threatened to pull funding for grants
Law enforcement agencies across the country have used Justice Department grants to pay for everything from new police dogs to body-worn cameras for officers — funds the Trump administration has threatened to pull if cities decline to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
And while some cities are fighting high-profile legal battles over the administration’s threats, police and sheriff’s departments across the country say they’re optimistic their policies comply, and they can keep the money flowing.
“We have always communicated with [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and had a great relationship with them, so this was never a concern for us,” said Megan Terlecky, a spokesperson for the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado. The new stipulations “are not as severe as maybe people might think they are. These are requirements that people have been following for a long time.”
Mesa has applied for a Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, asking for $19,000 that deputies will spend on three bait cars they intend to use to catch car thieves and habitual offenders who break into cars, Ms. Terlecky said.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced new stipulations in July for the nearly $400 million in Byrne grants to be doled out over the next year. Jurisdictions must allow federal agents into their prisons and jails, they can’t impede communication with immigration authorities, and they should agree to give agents 48 hours’ notice before releasing illegal immigrants.
But Mr. Sessions didn’t require departments to honor immigration detainers — requests from ICE to hold a suspected illegal immigrant in custody past the time he would normally be released, for pickup by federal agents. Some courts have found detainers unconstitutional, and a number of departments have stopped honoring them.
Jurisdictions had to submit grant applications by Sept. 5. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the progress made in reviewing this year’s applications or when awards would be announced.
The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office in Kansas wasn’t honoring ICE detainers until February, when federal agents began including probable cause affidavits with their requests, said spokesman Lt. Lin Dehning.
He said some still label the county a “sanctuary” jurisdiction, but the sheriff’s office believes it is in compliance with the new grant requirements and won’t be blacklisted for future funds.
“We have an automated system so that when someone is booked in our jail, it automatically alerts ICE in Topeka,” he said.
Authorities from the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia, which is spending its $29,000 grant from last year on interview recording equipment, also believe its long-standing agreements with ICE mean it remains eligible for grants.
“Anyone who goes into our jail is entered in our database and ICE will notify us if they want a detainer,” said Loudoun sheriff’s spokesman Kraig Troxell. “We notify them if they are going to be released.”
Chicago, which has one of the most restrictive policies in the country on cooperating with ICE, received $2.33 million in Byrne grant funds last year, and has submitted an application this year for its ShotSpotter gunfire detection technology.
It has sued this year over the new policy, fearing the loss of money. The city says it reached an agreement that it would not have to certify it meets the new Byrne conditions while the lawsuit was pending.
A federal judge heard arguments in the case this week, and is now considering whether to issue a nationwide injunction that would ban the Justice Department from enforcing the new requirements.
Agencies in California, where a state law limits compliance with immigration detainers, were unsure whether the current law would put them at risk of losing out on Justice Department grants.
“JAG grant money could be jeopardized, but we don’t know for certain,” said Misti Harris, spokesperson for the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.
The sheriff’s office received $48,000 last year to purchase upgraded audio and video recording equipment for interview rooms. But because the sheriff’s office only applies for the grant every four years, letting other county agencies take turns, Ms. Harris said it wouldn’t be a huge loss if the agency was no longer considered eligible.
“We tend to not count on the money because it is a relatively small amount and because it’s small in the totality of the budget,” Ms. Harris said.
In Alameda County, California, the sheriff’s office is closely watching the legislature, where a bill to further limit cooperation with ICE is pending. The sheriff’s office used $876,000 in Byrne grant money it received last year to help pay for community policing efforts that have deputies working with local youth in unique programs like boxing classes and an urban farming initiative.
Alameda County Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said the agency currently complies with all the stipulations outlined in the new Byrne JAG application and believes it is still eligible for the grants.
“If the Senate bill goes through, then there’s probably statewide, billions dollars at stake,” Sgt. Kelly said. “We will have to sit down statewide and figure out how we are going to keep some of these programs going and cut costs where we can.”