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Justice Department letter asks D.C. to remove sanctuary city status

D.C is one of 29 cities being asked to share immigration information with federal officials

DC Aerial View Photo via Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy

In January 2017, Mayor Muriel Bowser vowed to maintain Washington, D.C.’s status as a sanctuary city, despite President Donald Trump’s promise to deport between two to three million undocumented immigrants. At the time, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that municipalities like Washington, D.C., could lose over $1 billion per year in federal funding for acting against the two immigration-related executive orders Trump signed.

Despite the potential financial loss, Bowser said that the District—with its estimated 25,000 undocumented immigrants—wasn’t budging. Still, this Wednesday, Department of Justice Acting Assistant Attorney Alan Hanson sent Michelle Garcia, the D.C. director of the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants, a letter stating that by the city receiving federal funding in the 2016 fiscal year, the jurisdiction agreed to comply with Section 1373, a federal statute that promotes information sharing related to immigration enforcement.

The letter asks for the city to comply by December 8 if interested in receiving the FY2017 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program’s award. This isn’t specific to D.C.: A version of the same letter was sent to approximately 30 other jurisdictions across the nation.

In a statement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “Jurisdictions that adopt so-called ‘sanctuary policies’ also adopt the view that the protection of criminal aliens is more important than the protection of law-abiding citizens and of the rule of law. I urge all jurisdictions found to be potentially out of compliance in this preliminary review to reconsider their policies that undermine the safety of their residents. We urge jurisdictions to not only comply with Section 1373, but also to establish sensible and effective partnerships to properly process criminal aliens.”

These threats may run afoul of the 10th Amendment, which address the separation of powers between the federal government, states, and cities. Former Mayor Vincent Gray also signed an executive order years ago, prohibiting D.C. public safety officials from inquiring about immigration status.

In an email to Curbed DC, Bowser explained, “When it comes to being welcoming, Washington, D.C., is already great—not simply because we are diverse, but because we celebrate our diversity. We know we are a safer, stronger D.C. when all people regardless of status can call the police, go to school, or seek medical aid. Our policies not only protect the safety and rights of our residents, but they are in compliance with the law. We will stand with our Congresswoman and Attorney General to protect all residents.”

To read the letter sent to Garcia, see the embedded document below:

Can’t see the letter? Go to Scribd here.

Justice Department Sends Letters to 29 Jurisdictions Regarding Their Compliance with 8 U.S.C. 1373 [The United States Department of Justice]

Trump's threat to sanctuary cities could lose D.C. over $1B in federal funding [Curbed DC]