US Justice Dept. warns VT and Burlington over immigration enforcement

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears in Portland to discuss sanctuary city policies with city and regional law enforcement officials on Tuesday Sept. 19 2017. Stephanie Yao Long  Staff

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A preliminary review found that sections of Multnomah County Sheriff's Office policy, a state statute and a recently signed state law that expands sanctuary protections could violate federal law, the Justice Department said in letters requesting a response by December 8.

Albany, New York; Berkeley, California; Bernalillo County, New Mexico; Burlington, Vermont; Contra Costa County, California; City and County of Denver, Colorado; Fremont, California; Jackson, Mississippi; King County, Washington; Lawrence, Massachusetts; Los Angeles, California; Louisville Metro, Kentucky; Middlesex, New Jersey; Monterey County, California; Multnomah County, Oregon; Newark, New Jersey; Riverside County, California; Sacramento County, California; City and County of San Francisco, California; Santa Ana, California; Santa Clara County, California; Seattle, Washington; Sonoma County, California; Washington, DC; Watsonville, California; West Palm Beach, Florida; the state of IL; the state of Oregon; and the state of Vermont.

The term "sanctuary city" loosely applies to legislation in cities and counties that put roadblocks for local law enforcement officers in cooperation with federal immigration detentions.

Safe and smart local pro-immigrant policies in these jurisdictions protect all people, including non-citizens, while maintaining the rule of law and upholding the Constitution. "I urge the city of Portland, the state of OR and every sanctuary jurisdiction to reconsider". It said local and state governments are violating the federal law known as 8 USC 1373, which promotes information-sharing for immigration enforcement and bars local and state governments from passing laws that limit communication with the federal government about immigration status. Maki said the new state law doesn't prohibit any state or local entity from sending or receiving information regarding a person's immigration status.

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County sheriff's offices operate most of the jails in Oregon. Sessions criticized the Sheriff's Office during a visit to Portland in September. However, officials with the Department of Justice declined to comment on what actions the government might make if the jurisdictions in question stick to their guns.

In Wednesday's letter to White, Acting Assistant Attorney General Alan Hanson wrote that the Justice Department "is concerned" two parts of the city code "may violate section 1373". Attorneys for Gresham and Multnomah County and the executive director of Oregon Criminal Justice Commission didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

"Denver intends to respond to the November 15, 2017 letter from the Department of Justice with our assurance that Denver's ordinance complies with Section 1373", Espinoza continued. In October, the Justice Department said it found Chicago, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia and Cook County, Illinois, weren't in compliance. In April, the Justice Department sent similar letters to cities and counties in California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Portland and Seattle are among a number of cities that have sued the federal government over its attempt to crack down on sanctuary communities. Federal officials anxious that local policies were shielding illegal immigrants from deportation and contributing to rising crime rates reported in some cities.

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