Sanc­tu­ary com­pli­ance doesn’t bother some po­lice

DOJ has threat­ened to pull fund­ing for grants

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY AN­DREA NOBLE

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.”

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