DOJ Warns 9 Places on ‘Sanctuary City’ Funds Cut

Following through on a presidential threat, the Justice Department asks nine jurisdictions for proof they are cooperating with federal immigration enforcers, warning that some of their federal aid may be cut.

The Trump administration has fired an opening salvo in its promised crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities, asking nine jurisdictions for proof that they are cooperating with immigration enforcement, and warning they are at risk of losing federal grants, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Justice Department sent letters to the California Board of State and Community Corrections, as well as officials in Cook County, Il., Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state will defend its policies against “fearmongering” by the Trump administration.

The emerging dispute between communities and the Trump administration is already in the courts, and the letters may bolster the administration’s case. President Trump repeatedly vowed to cut all federal funds to sanctuary cities during last year’s campaign, but it’s doubtful Congress would permit that. The administration has only threatened to cut off grants administered by the Justice Department. The amount at risk is a total of $4.1 billion in federal grants to governments and law enforcement agencies across the nation. The California Board of State and Community Corrections received $20 million last year from the Justice Department program identified in the letter. The state distributed the money to 32 counties and the state prison agency. More than 150 communities have laws or policies that restrict the ability of police and jails to hand over people who in the U.S. illegally to federal immigration officers. The nine were chosen because they were named in a Justice Department review last year.



DOJ Calls NYC ‘Soft on Crime;’ De Blasio is Outraged

The Justice Department says the city let a gang member facing deportation out of jail. His minor weapons offense was not among those on which NYC cooperates with federal immigration officials.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions are in a war of words over a Department of Justice statement accusing the city of being “soft on crime,” the Associated Press reports. DOJ said New York “continues to see gang murder after gang murder, the predictable consequence of the city’s ‘soft on crime’ stance.” The statement came in a dispute between President Trump and cities over immigration policy, with the Trump administration threatening to crack down on “sanctuary cities” that refuse to comply with federal immigration authorities. De Blasio called the “soft on crime” label “absolutely outrageous,” asking why Sessions would “insult the men and women who do this work every day, who put their lives on the line and who have achieved so much?” New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill added, “To say we’re soft on crime is absolutely ludicrous.” He said his department locked up more than 1,000 people in 100 gang takedowns last year.

DOJ said, “It is New York City’s policies that are soft on crime. Those policies, implemented by New York City’s mayor and his administration, are directly responsible for a dangerous MS-13 gang member walking out of Rikers Island (jail complex) in February.” The Department of Justice was referring to the February release of an 18-year-old from Rikers Island even though he had been ordered deported by an immigration judge. The teen had been convicted of fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a misdemeanor not among the 170 crimes the city considers serious enough to merit cooperation with immigration officials.



How States Are Protecting Immigrant Data from Feds

Some states are acting to protect data filed by unauthorized immigrants from being seized by federal authorities in deportation moves.

Amid stepped-up federal deportation efforts, many unauthorized immigrants worry that state and local programs that are designed to help them could instead be used by federal agents to identify and expel them. About a dozen states have created special driver’s license programs for people who can’t prove U.S. citizenship, and more than a dozen cities have started identification programs so that unauthorized immigrants and others can complete tasks such as opening bank accounts, enrolling their children in school and receiving government services, Stateline reports. Under the programs, state and local government agencies have retained perhaps millions of documents with personal information about the applicants, such as their names, addresses and foreign identification numbers. Although there has always been a risk that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could request the documents, immigration advocates say the information could be more vulnerable now, in a political atmosphere that is increasingly hostile to immigrants.

To ease the fear, lawmakers in states such as Hawaii, Massachusetts and Vermont have pushed various measures to prevent state and local resources from being used to enforce federal immigration law. In Vermont, Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed a law requiring local governments to get approval from the governor before assisting federal enforcement. In Washington state, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee issued an order saying state agencies will not collect information on immigrants beyond what is necessary to perform agency duties and will not use resources to apprehend people for being in the country illegally, except as required by law. In New York City, which has the nation’s largest municipal ID program in the country, serving more than 1 million residents, a judge ruled this month that the city can destroy application documents. Two Republican legislators plan to file an appeal.




Federal Agents Deported a ‘Dreamer’ in February

President Trump had retained President Obama’s “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) program, but agents deported Juan Montes, 23, without giving him a chance to get his DACA permit.

Federal agents have deported a “Dreamer” to Mexico, possibly the first such documented case under President Trump’ immigration policies, The Guardian reports. Juan Manuel Montes, 23, was supposedly protected under the the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but agents detained and swiftly expelled him in February. Montes had lived in the U.S. since the age of nine and obtained de facto amnesty from an Obama-era policy that Trump has kept intact, citing his “big heart.” Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers approached him on the street in Calexico, on California’s border with Mexico, and deported him three hours later without giving him a chance to fetch his active DACA permit.

“Juan Montes was the target of abusive law enforcement officers and deported from his family and home,” said Greisa Martinez of United We Dream. Trump met Dreamers before running for president, and after taking office retained DACA protections, which cover more than 750,000 undocumented immigrants, signalling they would escape his immigration crackdown. “They shouldn’t be very worried,” he told ABC News in January. “I do have a big heart.” Even so, at least 10 have been detained, says United We Dream. Montes, who suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child, appears to be the first to be deported. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), who has long advocated for Dreamers, demanded that the Department of Homeland Security explain Montes’s expulsion.



Immigration Enforcement Rise Faces Swamped Courts

Under the Trump administration, immigration agents have more authority to deport immigrants. The immigration court system already is juggling a half-million cases and is ill-equipped to take on thousands more. USA Today examines how the system is working.

Immigration judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys are straining to decipher how the federal immigration rules released in February by the Trump administration will affect the system amid an expanding backlog of existing cases, USA Today reports. The new guidelines give agents greater rein to deport immigrants without hearings and detain those who entered the U.S. without permission. That ambitious policy shift faces a tough hurdle: an immigration court system juggling more than a half-million cases and ill-equipped to take on thousands more. “We’re at critical mass,” said Linda Brandmiller, a San Antonio immigration attorney who works with juveniles. “There isn’t an empty courtroom. We don’t have enough judges. You can say you’re going to prosecute more people, but from a practical perspective, how do you make that happen?”

Today, 301 judges hear immigration cases in 58 courts. The backlogged cases have soared in recent years, from 236,415 in 2010 to 508,036 this year, or nearly 1,700 outstanding cases per judge, says the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. Some judges and attorneys say it’s too early to see any effects from the new guidelines. Others have noticed a difference, and fear that people with legitimate claims for asylum or visas may be deported along with those who are criminals. USA Today sent reporters to several immigration courts to witness how the system is adjusting to the new rules.


Immigrant Arrests Soar 33%; Many Have No Crime Record

Newly empowered federal agents have intensified their pursuit of undocumented immigrants under Trump. A Seattle prosecutor says immigrants have quickly come to fear the U.S. justice system. He says, “The federal government, in really just a couple of months, has undone decades of work that we have done to build this trust.”

Immigration arrests rose 32.6 percent in the first  2 1/2 months of the Trump administration, reports the Washington Post. Newly empowered federal agents are intensifying their pursuit of not just undocumented immigrants with criminal records, but also thousands of illegal immigrants who have been otherwise law-abiding. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 21,362 immigrants, mostly convicted criminals, from January through mid-March, compared to 16,104 during the same period last year. Arrests of immigrants with no criminal records more than doubled to 5,441, evidence that President Trump has ditched his predecessor’s protective stance toward most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Advocates for immigrants say the unbridled enforcement has led to a sharp drop in reports from Latinos of sexual assaults and other crimes in Houston and Los Angeles, and terrified immigrant communities across the United States. A prosecutor said the presence of immigration agents in state and local courthouses, which advocates say has increased under the Trump administration, makes it harder to prosecute crime. “My sense is that ICE is emboldened in a way that I have never seen,” said Dan Satterberg, the top prosecutor in Seattle. “The federal government, in really just a couple of months, has undone decades of work that we have done to build this trust.”


Trump Deputies Ready Plan for Massive Deportation Effort

Documents suggest the White House is quickly and quietly moving forward with plans to assemble the nationwide deportation force that President Trump promised on the campaign trail.

The Trump administration is quickly identifying ways to assemble the nationwide deportation force that President Trump promised on the campaign trail as he railed against the dangers posed by illegal immigration, reports the Washington Post. An internal Department of Homeland Security assessment shows the agency has already found 33,000 more detention beds to house undocumented immigrants, opened discussions with dozens of local police forces that could be empowered with enforcement authority and identified where construction of Trump’s border wall could begin. The agency also is considering ways to speed up the hiring of hundreds of new Customs and Border Patrol officers, including ending polygraph and physical fitness tests in some cases, according to the documents.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that the Trump administration is seeking to change long-established federal requirements on jails holding immigrants facing deportation. They include requirements to notify immigration officials if a detainee spends two weeks or longer in solitary confinement; to check on suicidal inmates every 15 minutes and evaluate their mental health every day; to inform detainees, in languages they can understand, how to obtain medical care, and to provide a staff member who can advocate in English on the detainee’s behalf.


Some CA Police Manuals at Odds with Immigration Policies

While many California law enforcement agencies say officers don’t enforce federal immigration policies, their own police manuals seem to suggest otherwise, offering advice on how suspected illegal immigrants can be stopped and questioned. Many of the agencies use template manuals from Lexipol, a company that drafts policies for law enforcers.

Like many law enforcement agencies across California, police in the desert town of Blythe say officers don’t enforce federal immigration policies. But the department’s police manual seems to suggest otherwise, offering officers guidance on how to stop people suspected of illegally entering the U.S., a misdemeanor under federal law, reports the Los Angeles Times. Blythe’s policy says that “a lack of English proficiency may be considered” as a possible criterion for police to stop someone suspected of illegal entry into the country, though the policy goes on to say that “it should not be the sole factor in establishing reasonable suspicion.” The department is one of at least 11 in California that uses blanket police manuals from Lexipol, an Irvine, Calif., company that drafts policies for law enforcement agencies.

The ACLU of Southern California sent a five-page letter to Lexipol on Wednesday, calling on the company to modify the policy. “By suggesting that officers may systematically consider characteristics widely shared by Californians to arrive at reasonable suspicion of a crime, the policy encourages profiling and illegal detentions, and runs afoul of the Fourth Amendment,” the letter reads. An attorney for Lexipol said the group’s policies are guidelines for local police chiefs, who should consider their local demographics and circumstances before turning those policies into practice.


The Immigration Crackdown: Is Anywhere Safe?

In our continuing series highlighting jurisdictions to watch as efforts to deport the undocumented multiply, John Jay researcher Daniel Stageman examines Alamance County in North Carolina, where a civil rights suit stopped local law enforcement from enforcing detention orders. Will it get new life under Trump?

Media and public attention on immigration enforcement has become vital in light of the Trump Administration’s continued impact on the news cycle.

The President’s announcement during his joint address to Congress in February that he was open to ‘compromise on immigration reform’ may not be a deliberate distraction from ongoing developments in enforcement and detention, but it attracted significant media attention that might otherwise have been turned elsewhere.

Among the substantive immigration enforcement developments that this and similar high-profile public announcements from the White House pushed out of the headlines were the increasingly aggressive actions of ICE agents themselves, who appear after the reversal of Obama-era discretion policies to be making symbolic arrests that sow fear among immigrant populations.

Some of these arrests seem tailor-made to communicate the message that literally nowhere is safe.

That undermines any sense of security that might be taken from sanctuary cities or sanctuary campuses. Perhaps more importantly, the arrests undermine the participation of undocumented immigrants (and, frequently, their US citizen children) in constitutionally protected human rights like public education and public safety.

This widespread sense of fear and insecurity compounds two other current issues regarding immigration control: the enormous and growing backlog of federal immigration cases—in a context where immigrants will now be nearly universally subject to mandatory detention while asylum and other immigration cases are under review; and the now-public efforts of DHS to quickly and significantly expand detention capacity by as many as 20,000 beds.

That suggests John Kelly, head of the Department of Homeland Security, expects a nearly 50% increase in the current “average daily population” (ADP) of 41,000 immigrants in detention on any given day.

Such an expansion will not only represent a windfall for private/for-profit detention providers like CoreCivic (formerly the Corrections Corporation of America) and the GEO Group, but also for the county sheriffs who operate local jails with spare beds that can be leased to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through intergovernmental service agreements (IGSAs) for what is often a lucrative per diem fee.

This phenomenon will likely be especially pronounced in jurisdictions along the US-Mexico border, where the ending of Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) “catch-and-release” policy will mean yet another influx of new detainees.

Another key question is how the new hardline approach will work in counties where the 287g agreement is no longer in effect.  One example:  Alamance County in North Carolina.

The Alamance County Sheriffs’ Office (ACSO) lost its 287g agreement in 2012 in the midst of federal civil rights litigation alleging racial profiling of Latinos under the auspices of the program.  Thus, signing a new 287g with the ACSO would be a clear repudiation of Obama-era enforcement policy.

Such repudiations are arguably the Trump administration’s stock-in-trade across a whole spectrum of policy arenas, but the symbolism of entering an enforcement agreement with a jurisdiction previously under investigation for civil rights violations would be particularly telling.

The Alamance County Sheriff, Terry S. Johnson, appears in many of his public statements to be an ideologue in the mold of some other sheriffs previously covered in this series, if somewhat less outspoken. Perhaps the most significant differences between Alamance and the other jurisdictions we have examined are demographic. Alamance, with a population of about 150,000 has had a large and growing Latino community since the 1990s—accounting in the last census for over 11% of the county’s population.

From the perspective of those fighting the current administration’s immigration policies, the cancellation of its 287g agreement makes it an important jurisdiction.  Its 287g was ended  through the intervention of a tool—federal civil rights litigation—that is unlikely to be available to advocates under the current administration.

What other kinds of litigation or approaches to grassroots organizing remain possible in the face of an emboldened immigration enforcement apparatus?  That has yet to be tested, but a renewed 287g agreement in Alamance County would arguably represent an attack on civil rights and constitutional protections necessitating an early test of these strategies.

Using the format I applied in previous profiles of “jurisdictions to watch,” here is a closer look at Alamance County.


Graham, North Carolina. County seat of Alamance County. Photo by Doug Kerr via Flickr


Terry S. Johnson, a Republican, has been Alamance County Sheriff since 2002, and is currently under consideration for an appointment to the US Marshals Service under the Trump administration. Johnson, who was accused under the Department of Justice’s 2012 investigation of the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) of referring to Spanish speakers as “taco eaters”, “received support [for his appointment] from every sheriff in the other 23 counties in the U.S. Middle District of North Carolina.”

The Department of Justice brought suit against Johnson himself (rather than the ACSO as a whole) in 2012, after he categorized the DOJ’s findings in their initial investigation as “completely false. ”In what was then a first for the DOJ’s civil rights actions against law enforcement agencies, the Department lost its case against Johnson in 2015, with US District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder finding that the government had not proved its argument.

While the DOJ originally appealed the verdict, it dropped that appeal in August of 2016.


280 in 2012.  That number is significantly lower than the annual average of 355 that the ACSO achieved in the five preceding years of 287g enforcement, and it likely reflected the pressure that the ongoing DOJ investigation put the department under.

Alamance County’s population of 150,000 was 11% Hispanic or Latino according to the 2010 census.  So if most of the arrestees processed for deportation were Latino county residents, around 2% of this community was directly affected on an annual basis. Given the likely indirect effects of this enforcement on children, partners, other family members, and the community at large, Alamance’s immigrant population may have long been familiar with the level of stress and uncertainty currently being experienced by immigrant communities nationwide.


The Intergovernmental Service Agreement through which ICE contracted with the Alamance County Jail to provide bed space for immigrant detainees appears to have been rescinded along with the county’s 287g MOA in late 2012. At its 2010-11 peak, however, its average of 45 immigrant detainees would have made up 15% of the jail’s average daily population of 300. As recently as 2016, the ACSO shuttered a 76-bed detention center “annex” as a cost-saving measure; as discussed above, there is a clear incentive to monetize this excess bed space under the Trump administration’s expansion of detention capacity.


The Alamance County Jail held an average of 29 immigrant detainees on any given day throughout 2012. This represents a significant drop-off from the approximate ADP of 89 when the county first signed its 287g MOA in 2007. With a per diem of $61, the ACSO’s detention and related operations yielded $2.6 million from ICE that year – $1.87 million for detention, and $730 thousand for transportation.

Alamance’s reduced 2012 ADP indicates a partnership going out of favor in the face of the DOJ’s ongoing civil rights investigation. Under these reduced circumstances, ADP income would likely have been cut by over 50% from documented 2007 levels ($71 x 29 detainees x 365 days) to $750,000 for detention alone. Alamance’s 2007 IGSA gives us the ability to further estimate a proportional income from transportation of $275,000 (730k/541 = $1,350 per detainee in 2007, or $1,565 x 176 total detainees in 2012).

Thus even under DOJ investigation, Alamance probably cleared $1 million in funding for detention and transportation of deportable immigrants. Interestingly, the total funding that could be directly attributed to Alamance’s enforcement activity under 287g—about $1.64 million ($71x 280 processed for deportation x 60-day average stay = $1.2m, + 280 x $1,565=$440k)—is in fact 60% higher than the amount the recorded ADP suggests, illustrating the clear budgetary importance of maintaining the appearance of unbiased enforcement under the Obama-era DHS.


Alamance County entered into its 287g enforcement agreement in 2007, as part of a wave of several North Carolina jurisdictions that joined that year. The ACSO’s original 287g memorandum of agreement was an agreement for jail enforcement only, adding a cautionary note to statements by other 287g-supporting sheriffs that jail enforcement agreements are intrinsically safer than street enforcement agreements or comparatively free of bias.

The crux of the DOJ’s case against Johnson was research indicating that Latinos in Alamance County were significantly more likely than other ethnicities to be stopped at ACSO roadblocks and for minor traffic violations, and more likely to be arrested rather than warned or cited when stopped. This largely replicated the enforcement patterns cited in criticisms that characterized 287g task-force agreements as biased and reliant on profiling.

The material difference between task-force and jail-based 287g agreements lies in the fact that interrogation about immigration status takes place within the confines of the county jail in the case of the latter, and in the public view for the former. This difference does not inoculate jail enforcement agreements from patterns of arrest intended to yield higher numbers of detentions and deportations.


As discussed above, whether under Sheriff Johnson during his remaining time in office, or under his successor at a later date, the reentry of an emboldened Alamance County Sheriff’s Office into the 287g fold would represent a clear symbolic break from Obama-era cautions around profiling-based immigration enforcement by local jurisdictions.

To renew an agreement with Alamance would arguably represent an implicit statement—at most hinted at in Trump’s January 25th Executive Orders and the follow-up Kelly memo—that racial profiling and other forms of biased enforcement would be tacitly acceptable for local jurisdictions acting in support of the administration’s stated detention and deportation goals.

Even in the context of an emboldened ICE and an increasingly indiscriminate immigrant detention and deportation regime, this tacit approval of unconstitutional policing practices would represent a new and extreme departure from established professional law enforcement standards.

Daniel Stageman

It would also be a redirection of the federal civil rights apparatus (encompassing both the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security) that has long been tasked with supporting them. Advocates and other close observers may well be expecting this departure, but would do well to keep an eye on Alamance County to see if it is confirmed.

Daniel L. Stageman, PhD is Director of Research Operations at CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He is also a criminologist whose scholarship focuses on making sense of America’s punitive approach to immigrants. He can be contacted at dstageman(at) Other articles in his series are archived on The Crime Report: Etowah County, AL;    Frederick County, Md.; and Orange County, Ca.;  Read Dr. Stageman’s introduction to the series, “Where Will Trump’s Deportation Force Strike Hardest?” here. Readers’ comments are welcome.


After Errors, ICE Stops List of Non-Cooperating Places

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is suspending a recently adopted practice of reporting cities that don’t cooperate with federal detention efforts after the first few reports were plagued by errors,

The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is suspending a recently adopted practice of reporting cities that don’t cooperate with federal detention efforts after the first few reports were plagued by errors, the Los Angeles Times reports. The new policy, an attempt to pressure cities and counties that refuse to hold people in the country illegally for immigration agents, was a priority for President Trump. Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised to push back against “sanctuary cities,” possibly by denying them federal funds and using other methods of pressure.

The weekly “declined detainer” reports by ICE were supposed to be a first step, focusing attention on jurisdictions that were releasing immigrants from jail or after arrest. The plan didn’t go smoothly. ICE mixed up names, confusing Franklin counties in Iowa, New York and Pennsylvania, said David Lapan of the Department of Homeland Security. In other cases, the detainees had already been picked up by ICE, or had never been released in the first place. The reports were suspended after two weeks. “There have been some data processing errors, and some other issues,” Lapan said. “We want to make sure we look at this holistically and make sure we are getting this as accurate as possible.” The department still intends to “let the public know which jurisdictions have policies that do not assist ICE in its mission,” he said. Under the Obama administration, a program called Secure Communities enlisted local police as partners in immigration enforcement. There was a backlash after immigrants were detained and deported after minor violations like traffic tickets.