Feb 11, 2020 10:55 AM

Justice Department brings new suits over sanctuary policies

Posted Feb 11, 2020 10:55 AM

By MICHAEL BALSAMO-Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Justice Department ratcheted up legal pressure Monday on local governments over "sanctuary" policies that hinder federal immigration officers, bringing two new lawsuits and launching a coordinated messaging campaign to highlight an election-year priority of President Donald Trump.

Declaring that law enforcement officers are being "put in harm's way by these ideologically driven policies," Attorney General William Barr said the Trump administration is suing the state of New Jersey and the county that is home to Seattle over immigration policies that offer protections to immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

The Justice Department said New Jersey is violating federal law by prohibiting state and local law enforcement from sharing information about inmates in the U.S. illegally. Washington state's King County was hit with a lawsuit over a policy that prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from using the King County International Airport-Boeing Field for deportation flights.

"Today is a significant escalation in the federal government's effort to confront the resistance of sanctuary cities," Barr told an audience of officers at the National Sheriffs' Association to roaring applause.

Some cities, like New York, have put laws in place that prohibit the sharing of information with immigration officials. Immigration officials have sent subpoenas to Denver and New York City over requests for information on immigrants about to be released from jail. In New York, Homeland Security suspended "trusted traveler" programs that speed their re-entry into the U.S. over a law that prohibits state officials from sharing motor vehicle data with immigration officers.

The attorney general said the Justice Department would be "robustly supporting" Homeland Security to use "all lawful means," including federal subpoenas, to obtain information about suspects they are seeking to deport.

"These policies are textbook examples of misguided ideology triumphing over commonsense law enforcement, and it is the public and the police who pay the price," Barr said.

The administration also sued the state of California to block a law that took effect Jan. 1 to ban new contracts with for-profit prison companies, including thousands of immigration detention beds that the federal government pays for in the state.

Trump has been trying since he took office to punish sanctuary cities. In 2017 Jeff Sessions, then attorney general, said such cities would not receive grant money unless they gave federal immigration authorities access to jails and provide advance notice when someone in the country illegally is about to be released from prison. A federal judge blocked the punishment from being enforced, and the cities got the money.

Federal authorities have tried lawsuits before, suing the state of California over its sanctuary law in 2018. A federal appeals court rejected the bulk of the administration's lawsuit, though Barr said Monday he was hopeful the government would win before the Supreme Court.

That hasn't stopped Trump from criticizing the policies and noting, in bloody detail, certain cases where immigrants in the U.S. illegally have committed crimes. On Monday, speaking to the nation's governors, Trump said that it was essential the country comply with immigration enforcement requests.

"Jurisdictions that adopt sanctuary policies and instead release these criminals put all of Americans in harm's way," Trump said. "I know we have different policies, different feelings, different everything. But sanctuary cities are causing us a tremendous problem in this country. We have stone-cold killers that they don't want to hand over to us and then they escape into communities and they cause, in some cases, tremendous havoc."

But studies have shown immigrants are less likely to commit crime than U.S. citizens.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the Trump administration "is sacrificing public safety for political expedience" and that it is sad the Justice Department had "agreed to go along with this election-year stunt."

In the run-up to the messaging campaign, a directive from Justice headquarters encouraging "robust local media engagement from every district" caused unease among some public affairs officials in the U.S. attorneys' offices, according interviews and to correspondence reviewed by The Associated Press.

Some in jurisdictions that aren't home to sanctuary cities were reluctant to host events because they did not think the matter pertained to them. Others were concerned that a public announcement could agitate relations with local law enforcement agencies that depend on the cooperation of immigrant communities, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

But officials sent a note later reassuring districts they were under no obligation to hold a public event.

Some still did: Nebraska U.S. Attorney Joe Kelly held a news conference to highlight the benefits of local and state law enforcement agencies cooperating with the federal government to enforce immigration laws. Kelly said public safety can be jeopardized if local officials refuse to cooperate.

"Each year, many Americans fall victim to crimes committed by illegal aliens because certain officials choose to prioritize their own ideologies over their sworn obligation to uphold the law," Kelly said. "We don't have any of those problems here in the state of Nebraska."

In Chicago, federal prosecutors planned a tweet but no news conference. Others around the country published written statements voicing support timed to Barr's speech.

A joint statement by U.S. attorneys in New York criticized the state's new "green light" law that allows immigrants to get drivers licenses without legal status. "Our citizens, lawful permanent and temporary residents, visitors and undocumented immigrants deserve better, and so do those who serve and protect them," the statement read.

Barr also said Monday that federal officials were "meticulously reviewing the actions of certain district attorneys who have adopted policies of charging foreign nationals with lesser offenses for the express purpose of avoiding the federal immigration consequences of those nationals' criminal conduct."

Barr also highlighted a lawsuit filed a few weeks ago against California's governor and attorney general over a state law that took effect Jan. 1 to ban new contracts for for-profit prison companies, including thousands of immigration detention beds that the federal government pays for in the state. The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of California, says law usurps the federal government's constitutional authority.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom defended the law Monday, saying for-profit detention facilities "contribute to over-incarceration, including those that incarcerate inmates, as well as those that detain immigrants and asylum seekers."

Continue Reading North Platte Post
Feb 11, 2020 10:55 AM
Nearly 200 evacuees to leave coronavirus quarantine in US

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) - Nearly 200 evacuees prepared Tuesday to end their two-week quarantine at a Southern California military base where they have been living since flying out of China during a deadly viral outbreak.

None of those who flew into March Air Reserve Base have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, health authorities said, although one evacuee at another base had been found to have the highly infectious virus and was in hospital isolation.

The group, which includes children, arrived from China Jan. 29, taking chartered flights from Wuhan. The locked-down city of 11 million is the epicenter of the virus that has claimed more than 1,000 lives overseas.

In the United States, there have been only 13 confirmed cases, including seven in California, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health officials.

But fear of the disease has led to "unacceptable" treatment of others who work at the March airbase, Dr. Cameron Kaiser, public health officer for Riverside County, said in an open letter to the community on Monday.

The evacuees, which include U.S. State Department workers or their families, were isolated from base personnel and weren't permitted to leave a fenced quarantine area, Kaiser said.

"People on and off the base are not at increased risk for exposure," Kaiser said.

"There have been comments made that have been hurtful - both in person and on social media - that are often based on incorrect or incomplete information," Kaiser said. "A few base workers have even been accosted in uniform. This is not acceptable, and needs to stop."

Hundreds of evacuees in the past two weeks were flown to military bases in California, Texas and Nebraska, where many are still quarantined. With one exception, none have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, health authorities said.

The exception was an evacuee who flew into Marine Air Station Miramar in San Diego last week.

The adult and three other evacuees had been in hospital isolation after showing symptoms of the virus but on Sunday, federal health officials said they had tested negative and they were sent back to the base, where they joined more than 200 people who are under a 14-day quarantine.

On Monday morning, however, CDC officials informed county health officials that "further testing revealed that one of the four patients tested positive" for novel coronavirus and that person was returned to hospital isolation, UC San Diego Health said in a statement.

Another evacuee from Miramar also was hospitalized for evaluation Monday afternoon, UC San Diego Health said in a statement.

"Both patients are doing well and have minimal symptoms," the statement said.

Five evacuees taken to Travis Air Force Base, located between San Francisco and Sacramento, were hospitalized after showing symptoms of the virus but none of those possible cases has been confirmed, authorities said.

No symptoms were reported among evacuees at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio or a Nebraska National Guard training base in Omaha.